In first comments since season's conclusion, Gators coach Mike White discusses transfers, coaching staff, Keyontae Johnson and more
Florida men’s basketball coach Mike White spoke publicly Thursday, marking his first public comments since the season concluded, in a Gator Gathering hosted by the University Alumni Association.
Prior to taking questions, White’s 20-minute opening statement touched on a multitude of topics, including UF’s ongoing assistant coaching search, the transfer portal, Keyontae Johnson’s status and the state of the program.
White said the Gators are patiently searching for two assistant coaches after Darris Nichols and Jordan Mincy took head coaching gigs with Radford University and Jacksonville University, respectively.
“I’m in a process of hiring here. I’m taking my time. I just continue to tell myself ‘We don’t play until November’,” White said. “We’re going to have three guys here in Summer A, so we’re being really, really thorough. And there’s a ton of really good candidates out there, it’s just a matter of finding the right couple. The best couple. I don’t know that anything is just a perfect fit, but we anticipate here, sometime in the near future, finding the best fit possible, really on both sides, because you want guys that really want to be here as well, that want to be part of Gator Nation.”
The departures of Mincy and Nichols weren’t the only former Gators discussed by White, as he made sure to address the oft-discussed NCAA transfer portal and its impact on college basketball. White, echoing the sentiment of UF athletics director Scott Stricklin, admitted it’s simply the way of collegiate athletics right now, and Florida’s situation is no more unique than the rest of the SEC’s 14 member schools.
“We all have to realize that it’s happening everywhere, and unfortunately for us, I remember a headline on a national media outlet after the season, they used the word ‘exodus’,” White said. “We had four guys in the portal, and there are a ton in the SEC in the portal, there are a ton in every conference throughout the country. It is the new normal. There are only two teams in the SEC with only two guys in the portal; we have four, another couple teams have four, and the other nine teams have between five and nine in the portal. It is what it is. It’s not going to slow down, in my opinion.
“What do you do? You deal with it.”
Following the departures of Quez Glover, Omar Payne, Osayi Osifo and Noah Locke, the Gators added transfers Myreon Jones, Phlandrous Fleming Jr., Brandon McKissic and C.J. Felder to the line-up via the transfer portal. In another first this offseason, White discussed each one individually and their potential impact on the program heading into the 2021-22 season.
“He was one of the best scorers in the Big 10 last year. Talk about a grueling schedule, being in that league. As competitive of a league as there was in college basketball, and he got 15-plus a game,” White said of Jones, the former Penn State guard. “He’s a good defender, he’s a good passer. He’s a veteran guard. He’ll impact immediately, obviously. He’s excited to be here, we’re really excited to get him here, all of these transfers.”
In regards to McKissic, White said he initially stood out when scouting Oral Roberts University prior to Florida’s second-round match-up.
“We were really blown away by his defensive abilities,” White said, “and he got, if I’m not mistaken, 17-plus a game as well, so he can do it on both sides and on both ends, a good player.”
As for Felder, his scouting process was similar to that of McKissic’s — except the Gators actually had a front-row seat to what Felder could bring to UF’s frontcourt when the programs met last November.
“He caught our eye. It’s kinda funny, he’s one of those guys where as you’re preparing you say ‘Man, they got a really good one.’ He’s out of South Carolina, a good player,” White said of Felder. “I want to say he got in the neighborhood of 10 and six for Boston College in the ACC, and was one of the better defenders in that league as well. Can really move his feet and he’s got great length. He’s big and strong as well, takes pride defensively and he’s one of the best shot blockers in the ACC to complement those scoring and rebounding numbers.”
Rounding out the list, White said graduate transfer Fleming Jr. has “one of the best names in college basketball” and gives the Gators a former preseason player of the year after arriving from Charleston Southern.
“In addition to his defensive abilities, I want to say he got 19-plus a game,” White said. “Really long, really versatile. Can play all three guard positions, so if you can’t tell I’m excited about the guys we got coming in. I’m excited about what we were able to overcome this past season, and I’m excited about what next season holds for us, what’s in store around the corner. Can’t wait to get these guys back and can’t wait to get our staff settled to where we can start preparing for these first practices here, really in the first month. We’re eager to get to it.”
Whether or not Florida’s former preseason player of the year — forward Keyontae Johnson — will be a part of those plans “remains to be seen,” White said, reiterating any future news will come from either Johnson or his family.
“When we all look back on this season, certainly forever, we’ll think about Key and the impact he had. Obviously the moment in Tallahassee that he experienced, that we all experienced, that his family experienced, and Keyontae’s doing great. For those of you who were eager to ask, he’s doing terrific. In fact, everything he’s going through, the leadership that he provided this team, the fact that if he doesn’t walk into that gym after our Christmas break with a big smile on his face and a whistle around his neck and become a really big part of our staff, I’m not sure this team would have played,” White said. “I’m not sure we would have continued to play. While going through all that, he just made the Honor Roll this Spring. Had a really good GPA, all A’s and B’s. He’s a fantastic young man, proud to be a part of his life. Having him around meant everything.
"As far as what it looks like moving forward from a basketball standpoint, it remains to be seen. Keyontae and his family and his medical team will discuss his future when they feel like it’s the right time, and obviously we’re all looking forward to that.”