Whitley: It's Mike White's turn to welcome talent to Gators through transfer portal

David Whitley
Gator Sports
Florida head basketball coach Mike White has led the Gators to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

Florida just announced the basketball team will play in the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off during Thanksgiving week. The way things are going, the starting lineup will be Tyree Appleby, three guys from the Gainesville YMCA and the bus driver.

That's a slight exaggeration — too slight for UF basketball fans.

Four players have entered the NCAA transfer portal since the season ended. Tre Mann is bound for the NBA. Colin Castleton is flirting with that option.

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Assistant coach Jordan Mincy took the head coaching job at Jacksonville. And associate athletics director Alicia Longworth, a key behind-the-scenes cog in the program, was snatched away by Tennessee.

Given the season-ending crash against Oral Roberts, the mass exodus makes UF basketball look like a house on fire and Mike White can't put it out.

Gators men's basketball coach Mike White is not going anywhere

It won't cool the passions, but I'll say it again — White's not going anywhere.

He just navigated the Gators through one of the all-time challenging seasons (see: Keyontae Johnson, COVID-19) and into the second round of the NCAA tournament.

He's the only SEC coach that's taken teams to the past four tournaments (don't see: John Calipari).

You don't fire someone who's done that, not that my two cents count.

The opinions that matter belong to Scott Stricklin and upper administrators. They are firmly behind White, and the mass exodus isn't changing that position.

"Welcome to 2021!" one told me.

This year will go down as the year loosened transfer rules really hit the fan. As of Thursday afternoon, 1,140 Division 1 players had entered the transfer portal.

That's about 3.2 free agents per school. Some schools have five or six players hanging out at the local Greyhound station.

So the rush to the exits at UF isn't unique. All it does is add to the list of consumer complaints — real and imagined — against White.

The real include sputtering offenses, Jekyll-and-Hyde performances, late-game meltdowns and, of course, not being Billy Donovan.

The imaginary include the notion White can't hang onto players, and that's not just a social media trope. The Associated Press reported White hasn't graduated a single player in his six years at Florida.

Chris Harry at FloridaGators.com checked that and found six players White inherited or signed earned bachelor's degrees. Two graduate transfers earned master's degrees.

Another gripe is that players don't develop under White. Some have, like Mann and Castleton. Some haven't, like Scottie Lewis.

Is Scottie Lewis the next transfer portal entry?

The way things are going, don't be shocked if Lewis throws his name into the transfer portal. None of the players already there have said why they wanted to leave, but the standard reasons probably applied.

Lack of playing time. Not much prospect that'll change. For all we know, they may think White's as inept as the comments on message boards say.

If he is, the record next season should bear that out. But to be brutally honest, Omar Payne, Ques Glover and Osayi Osifo did Florida a favor by transferring. The way things work in 2021, White might have encouraged them to pursue other basketball options.

Noah Locke is a different case. He and Johnson are tight, and it's unlikely UF will clear Johnson to play again.

That might have played into Locke's decision, along with frustration over nagging injuries and his role in the offense. All of which comes under the term "adversity."

Coaches invoke that when they reminisce about the good old days when players had to sit out a year if they transferred. You may recall Norm Sloan's team had to walk 10 miles in the snow just to get to class, or so the memories go.

It wasn't quite that bad, but nobody left just because Stormin' Norman jumped down their throats every day.

You could argue things were better back then, or you could celebrate the fact players are now treated like regular students, coaches and administrators. They should not be penalized for pursuing better opportunities.

Like it or hate it, college sports have entered a new talent-acquisition world. What ultimately matters is that when the revolving portal door stops spinning, you have acquired more talent than you've lost.

The Gators have lost four transfers and counting. Mann's also a goner, though NBA scouts will likely tell Castleton to return to college for another year.

Kowacie Reeves, a 6-foot-6 guard from Macon, Ga., is the only high schooler who's been signed. So next season looks like a great opportunity for them to confirm the doubts that have fans steaming, or to justify the faith Stricklin has in the program.

A good place to start would be to bring in a few bodies, and do it fast.

Thanksgiving week isn't that far away, and right now the starting lineup looks like a bunch of turkeys.

Whitley

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley