UF's White closing in on normalcy

Pat Dooley
Gator Sports
Florida coach Mike White.

Mike White is like a lot of basketball coaches around the country right now.

He has no idea how good his team is. But he's just happy to be coaching again.

"As a staff, we went through a real roller coaster of emotions," said the Florida basketball coach. "Is there going to be a season? When will we be playing? 

"But then we get a schedule and the guys are out there between the lines and it's exciting."

White met via Zoom with the media Wednesday and was upbeat about what his next Florida team can be. On Wednesday, it was also revealed that the non-conference schedule is complete with games added to start the season at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut against Maine (Nov. 25) and Virginia (Nov. 27) and the SEC/Big 12 Challenge game at West Virginia Jan. 30.

 You know, a difficult schedule that his team can't wait to play.

"It's starting to feel a little more normal for our student-athletes," White said.

But it has not been normal as Florida has had to deal with missing players at practice for a variety if reasons. Even a headache or the sniffles have forced a player to quarantine until a negative COVID-19 test comes in. 

This is what every coach is dealing with in these times of COVID-19. But the Gators have just finished up seven practices in five days with the season just about a month away.

"The guys are finding some level of normalcy," White said. "Our guys are very happy to be competing between the lines."

It's clear that White likes what this team could be potentially after last year's struggles with a team that was, to put it bluntly, vastly overrated in the preseason.

"I don't know how good we'll be," he said. "But from a putting-in-the-work standpoint, they've been terrific."

White touched on how different this team will be from last year's methodical offensive team that ran through the departed Andrew Nembhard and Kerry Blackshear Jr. 

Nobody knows what that team might have done in the postseason and nobody knows what this team will do this season. All we know is that White plans to fulfill his need for speed.

Three point guards, faster big men, the depth to run and press all day. Sounds like a plan.

"We're quicker, we're faster, we're more athletic," he said. "And I hope we can be deeper."

Some of the speed is by attrition, some by addition.

Some of it is on purpose.

"Our increase in tempo will be among the national leaders," White said. 

He also plans to be a pressing team and all around the Gator Nation there are sighs of relief. Florida should be better on the offensive boards as well.

And ...

"Last year we didn't have a high ceiling defensively," White said. "We had some lack of buy-in. This team is so much older and hopefully we can be on the same page and max out defensively.

"And we have more potential leaders on this team than a year ago. We've had a good culture here, but we haven't had a championship culture."

Of course, as White pointed out, only five guys will take the floor on Nov. 25 against Maine. How the others respond will have a lot to do with whether or not this is a deep team.

But it's pretty obvious.

After a lot of waiting, he can't wait to find out.