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Mar 11, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Florida Gators head coach Mike White during the first half of the SEC conference tournament against the Texas A&M Aggies at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Men’s Basketball Media Day: High Expectations for a Talented Squad

A new season, but a similar cast of characters awaits Mike White in his second season as Florida’s head coach. The Gators lose Dorian Finney-Smith this year, but add explosive shooter, Canyon Barry, a transfer from the College of Charleston, Jalen Hudson, a transfer from Virginia Tech, Keith Stone, who red-shirted last season and freshman recruits Eric Hester, Dontay Bassett and Gorjok Gak. The following are quotes from head coach Mike White and the Florida Gators from Florida Basketball Media Day.

Mike White on keeping up the tempo and playing a similar style of basketball to last season: 

“We’d like to play, in a perfect world, in a similar style to the way we finished last year. We’ve picked the tempo back up, again, I’m open about this, I kind of regret having not played that way more consistently throughout the year last year. I think it helps us play to our strengths, I think it’s advantageous to us to play pretty fast, yet there’s that fine line between playing fast and taking crazy shots. We’ve got to be cognizant of what’s a good shot for which guy.”

“Defensively and offensively, we do want to play pressure basketball. We do want to promote tempo, we’ve practiced like that the past three days, that doesn’t happen overnight. Preston Greene is as good as anyone in the country with off-season conditioning, yet game shape to play the way we want to play won’t take place, for another month or so.”

Mike White on the team’s leadership: 

“When we talk about leadership as a staff, we don’t have one guy that just really sticks out. A guy who just controls the locker room, or whose voice is heard over everyone else’s. And you can perceive that as a negative, but we like to optimistically see it as a positive in that we have four or five guys that are voicing their opinions at different times. Not necessarily all over guys either. You know, I think the best teams that have 13 scholarship guys, what you really want is 13 leaders. It’s a little bit unrealistic, but the best teams have a few leaders.”

Mike White on what players have stood out to him in early practices: 

“I guess the guys that stick out to this point through practices, through three practices, [is] John Egbunu, he’s really stepped up his leadership. He’s been a little but more vocal, he’s been really even keel, making really good decisions. He’s been pretty mentally tough, we have a lot of running these last three days, and he’s been right there with the guards in terms of his physical effort, he’s not wearing down, so he’s leading a bunch by example. Kasey Hill is trying to help some of these younger guys, Chris Chiozza is a pretty steady guy by example. Justin Leon is in that category as well, physically, he plays as hard as anybody on our roster.”

Mike White on Canyon Barry adjusting to a new program: 

“Vocally, Canyon Barry is a newcomer, but Canyon is as vocal as we have. He probably will become a little bit more vocal here a couple months from now as he’s more familiar with what he’s dealing with and what we’re trying to teach and carry over as he gains confidence probably throughout the season.”

“Canyon came here to have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament, Canyon wants to win. I expect him to maintain that mentality more than anything else. Whether that means he scores 20 a night or scores four, that goes for everyone on our team, he’s very capable of scoring the ball, but I think he’s underrated in other areas. He’s a great communicator, he’s always talking, he’s a quick thinker, he’s a very good passer. He’s probably our best post passer right now through three practices.

He sees things before he catches the ball, is always checking the defense, has very good vision. I think he’s going to be a really good scouting report guy because he’s very experienced. He’s big and strong, and he gives us more depth. I don’t know whether Canyon’s going to play 20 minutes a game or 35 minutes a game. A lot of that will just depend on Canyon and his production. We’ve got better depth, more experience, he provides a lot of that, he’s a very good player and I’m very glad he’s here.”

Mar 11, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Florida Gators head coach Mike White against the Texas A&M Aggies during the first half of game six of the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Florida Gators head coach Mike White against the Texas A&M Aggies during the first half of game six of the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Mike White on Canyon Barry’s free throw shooting technique and him spreading it to other players: 

“He’s tried a little bit, he tried to recruit John Egbunu early on. John gave it about 4 or 5 reps and threw it away. He’s very, very consistent and he’s probably our best free throw shooter right now.”

Mike White on his coaching staff working together: 

“As a staff, we’re priding ourselves in learning on a daily basis, on a yearly basis, we’re always open to suggestions and always challenging each other.”

Mike White on living in Gainesville and Florida’s recruiting brand: 

“This is a wonderful place to live, this is a great job, I’ve learned that I have really good guys. We had some inconsistencies last year offensively, otherwise we’ve got to shoot better from the three. I’ve learned that our brand is pretty strong, recruiting has picked up, we’ve been received a little bit better form our recruiting base and hopefully that pays off in the future.”

Mike White on improving free throw and three-point shooting: 

“I don’t think we’re going to make a huge jump in either area. I can’t sit here and tell you we’re going to go from one of the last place three point shooting teams, if not last, to first. But I think we can make a pretty good jump in both areas. I’d be surprised if we weren’t a little bit closer towards the middle of the pack. I think we’ve got good experience, really good depth, in my opinion, we’ve got really good length, those would be three of the biggest strengths of this team. So I think we’ll be really good defensively, and that’ll be the challenge to this team like it was last year, but I think we can be better this year defensively and we can shoot it better.”

Mike White on what team aspects factor into improving: 

“I don’t think we’re going to make a huge jump in either area. I can’t sit here and tell you we’re going to go from one of the last place three point shooting teams, if not last, to first. But I think we can make a pretty good jump in both areas. I’d be surprised if we weren’t a little bit closer towards the middle of the pack. I think we’ve got good experience, really good depth, in my opinion, we’ve got really good length, those would be three of the biggest strengths of this team. So I think we’ll be really good defensively, and that’ll be the challenge to this team like it was last year, but I think we can be better this year defensively and we can shoot it better.”

Mike White on Kasey Hill: 

“I think that he’s very similar to what he was last year, other than the fact that he’s shooting the basketball better. Seniors usually play a little bit more seasoned, sometimes, as we just talked about, seniors, especially, the second half of the season, it’s a negative thing that you’re seeing. They start worrying about what’s going to happen next year, and guys start freaking out a little bit. For the most part, you’d expect your seniors to play with a little bit more poise, and be able to utilize that experience that they have in a positive way, expect that from Kasey.

He has really spent a lot of time in the gym, he’s kind of reinvented his shot, I’ve gotten a chance to see a lot of it here recently, in practices. I don’t think he’s hunting jump shots, which is a positive, and I like to think that the work that he’s put in will pay off in terms of just his percentage going up a little bit to try and help this team, try and help himself. He’s shooting it well form the foul line in practice as well in our pressure free throw shooting drills.”

Mike White on John Egbunu improving and changing his game a bit: 

“I like our depth in the front court, Kevarrius Hayes has made a big jump, Schuyler Rimmer is a senior that’s pushing those guys on a daily basis. We’re really deep at the four position. I don’t want to take away John’s aggressiveness, but you know, sometimes your practice emphasis changes when you start handling those experiences in games. I certainly hope that over the season we don’t have big foul trouble for John early. I wanted him to be more aggressive on the perimeter with ball screen coverage and things like that.

Looking back, toward last year, one of the things that we probably could’ve done a little bit better, we might’ve over emphasized it a little with John, we backed John off and had him catching ball screens very, very low and sometimes it backfired with guards going in with a head of steam and they were able to really pick up speed and momentum towards the rim. Sometimes, that backfired with John’s foul trouble. So we’re trying to get him up a little higher and be a little more aggressive, but he’s got to be aggressive, sound and very intelligent.”

Mike White on Gators’ front court: 

“When we play big, right now, Kevarrius Hayes and Dontay Bassett are getting reps at the 4. Gak has even gotten a few reps at the 4. We’re trying to simplify, especially for those freshman, saying hey, let’s just run this position as much as possible. We also want them to fight for a couple different spots to a certain extent. Keith Stone right now is getting more reps at the 4 than any other position and then Justin Leon and Devin Robinson both have pretty good understanding of the 4 and the 3, so they’re both fighting for those spots. Canyon Barry is understanding the 2 and 3, so I’d say for the most part the guys that are battling the most are Kevarrius Hayes, Keith Stone, Devin Robinson and Justin Leon. We lose a really good player in Dorian Finney-Smith who was a glue guy for us.”

Mike White on Devin Robinson: 

“We had a conversation with Devin saying if you’d want to come back, we’d love to have you back and continue to help you with your development. He’s come back with a great attitude, he’s been very meticulous and thorough. He’s taken the chance to kind of tweak his stroke a little bit, he’s done a lot of form shooting, chair shooting. He’s just gotten a ton of reps just working on his stroke simply. He’s really shooting the ball well and as well as anybody on the team right now. He probably added a couple of pounds up top so we’re excited about Devin.”

Mike White on team defense: 

“I think we can be really good. I put it out there, our goal as a staff, is to be a top 10 defense team in the country. I don’t think there’s any reason we should shoot for being any less than that.”

Mike White on more off days this season: 

“I regret not taking a few more days off, I think we got a little beat down late last year. With our non-conference schedule, with all the traveling we’re going to do, Duke and I and Preston and those guys, they’re experts in what they do, they’re as familiar with athleticism and the recharging of the body and how to keep guys fresh and healthy.”

“As we just talked about, I’m going to try and give our guys a little bit more rest. I think it’ll help physically, but I also think it’ll help mentally. When you think about a lot of these times, when we’re traveling late this fall, it’ll be crunch time with academics and we’re going to have to be respectful to our guys to put them in a good position academically.”

Mike White on simplifying the offense and defense: 

“We would’ve done that even if we had the entire team returned. Another thing that I felt like we could’ve gotten better at from year one to year two is just the simplification of everything. I think that’s the goal for every coach, once you’re playing games, you want your guys to play fast, and you want them to think fast, and attack more, play with instincts and be able to play full speed without the paralysis.

So that’s always at the top of the discussion in most sports for coaches, but I felt like we simplified it, specifically offensively late in the year, and that’s when we were at our best. Less calls, more reads, a little bit more freelance, a little bit more moving, a little bit more cutting, a little more motion concepts we’ve added so far, it’s a work in progress but we hope to be pretty good at it to the point where we’re stopping our guys less and playing full speed on the open floor.”

Mike White on the state of the SEC: 

“I think it’s a really strong league, a very well coached league, very talented league and probably as athletic a league as any in college basketball. I think it’s improved through recruiting and I expect our league to continue to increase. I expect the at-large bids to increase over the next couple of years.”

Mar 11, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Florida Gators guard Chris Chiozza (11) dribbles the ball up the floor in the second half of the SEC conference tournament against the Texas A&M Aggies at Bridgestone Arena. Texas A&M Aggies won 72-66. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Florida Gators guard Chris Chiozza (11) dribbles the ball up the floor in the second half of the SEC conference tournament against the Texas A&M Aggies at Bridgestone Arena. Texas A&M Aggies won 72-66. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Chiozza on his favorite part of playing at Florida: 

“The home games and having the Rowdys there is a big advantage to have fans like that that are so passionate about watching us play and supporting us. Whether we’re playing good or we’re playing bad, they’re going to be there every game cheering us on.”

Chris Chiozza on the team buying into Mike White’s system: 

system “We see that he really wants the best for everybody and he really wants to win. That’s what we all want, we all want to win, we all want to be successful and hopefully get to the next level, and he tries his best to make sure everyone has that chance and gives us the best chance to win. He pushes us hard and he is just honest with us, and we like that. He has a lot of the traits Billy Donovan has and we like that a lot.”

Chris Chiozza on the state of the SEC: 

“We’re looking at everybody the same, whether it’s Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee. We put everybody on the same level, we’ve got to come out and do that for every game.”

Justin Leon on the younger guys: 

“They’re doing fine, they’re getting adjusted to the schedule and the everyday style. I think they got a long way to come, but they’re going to come around.”

Justin Leon on improving as a whole:

“I think we’ll play more as a team, I don’t think we’ll force shots. I think our free throws will be a lot better and I think our defense will improve. I think this year it seems like we’re closer and everybody is on the same page just trying to get wins. I don’t think we had that with our team last year and that this year is a new vibe we’ve got.”

Justin Leon on what he needs to improve this season:

“I know my free throws and slowing down on offense and keeping myself at a steady pace. Not making unforced errors and turnovers.”

Keith Stone on how he adjusted his body for basketball:

STONE “I’m at 235 [pounds] and 10% body fat, so I lost a lot of weight. I put it all back on in muscle so I can run longer, my stamina is good and all that. When I first got here I was about 240, then I went up to 250, and then went back down to 235 and cut it down to muscle.”

Kasey Hill on guys buying into White’s system after Donovan left: 

“The last two years I’d say guys weren’t as close right now in the season as we are. I think that’s a big step for us because the guys have to care about the other guys. I think more guys have actually bought into what Coach White wants us to actually go instead of just having Coach Donovan in the back of their head saying Coach D doesn’t do it this way, or what if Coach D was here. So, I think guys have actually bought into what he [Mike White] wants and that’s what needs to happen.”

"Mar

Kasey Hill on the team’s non-conference schedule and missing school: 

“It’s going to be a lot of school being missed, so we’ll get behind, that’s going to suck, but I mean, it is what it is. You have to go out there and play basketball, you can’t really get too worried about are we playing home or not, we’ve just got to go play basketball and be prepared.”

Kasey Hill on his three-point shot: 

“I worked on my threes. I’m not going to go out there and take a whole bunch of threes, I’m going to get my teammates involved and get the guys who shoot threes the ball. If I’m open, I’m going to take open threes, but I’m not just going to go out there and try and shoot six 3’s a game or five 3’s a game, I’m just going to take open shots.”

 

Kevarrius Hayes on being selected to the SEC Leadership Council: 

“I felt it was a big honor that they would actually nominate me to be one of the representatives to go there for all the University of Florida athletes even though I’m only a sophomore now, that they trust me to go and be a part of it without any problems there.”

Kevarrius Hayes on what he improved in the off-season: 

season “I feel like mostly I’ve improved my strength, so I can withstand some of the beatings I took in the post my first year. My game in general, not only offense, but improving my defense and moving a lot quicker.”

Kevarrius Hayes on coming in for Egbunu late last season when he was injured: 

“That was kind of like a being thrown into the pit kind of thing. It was later in the season so I had got some experience, but having to take on a big role was a true test and I felt like I did OK and now I’m ready to take that into the next season and get better.”

John Egbunu on cutting down on fouls this season:

“Just making sure I’m in the right position. Being out of position is where I picked up most of my fouls.”

Devin Robinson on the team this year:

“We’re way different from last year. We’re more dynamic, we’ve got a lot of younger guys, we just all help each other and lead each other. We have guys ready to work, ready to learn, I just think it’s going to be a great season.”

Canyon Barry on coming to Florida:

“I felt really blessed by all the coaches that contacted me, and all the offers I had, but when it came down to the end of it I felt Florida was the best fit for me both academically and athletically. I played with Coach Mincy for a year at Charleston, so that connection helped recruiting wise.

I got to meet Coach White and I think he’s a great coach, I really love his style of play, sort of getting up and down the court, pressuring guys, less plays, more freedom for the players. I definitely think he’s a player’s coach. And then, obviously they had the nuclear engineering master’s, which I was pretty interested in. So that kind of perfect storm, or whirlwind, really made Florida really appealing to me.”

Canyon Barry on growing up in the Barry family:

“I just think it was a blessing. I feel like I’ve grown up in one of the greatest basketball families of all time and just to be able to have that wealth of knowledge available to me has just been phenomenal for my development as a player. Being able to come home and talk to your mom, talk to your dad, talk to your half-brothers about anything that might be going on in your life whether it be basketball or basketball-related with recruiting or coaches or anything like that.”

"Mar

Canyon Barry on what teammates helped him get accustomed to Florida the most:

“I think they’ve all been great, really accepting of me, but when I first got here in summer school, my roommates were Kevarrius Hayes, Keith Stone and KeVaughn Allen. I know KeVaughn and Keith are kind of quiet, but they both welcomed me in. We had a lot of late night Waffle House runs together, so they all really welcomed me. It’s been a great experience so far.”

Jalen Hudson on why he came to Florida: 

“When I was transferring, I was looking for a place that was good for a home and a place I’d be comfortable in and the coaches were really welcoming and I think it’s a good program for me in terms of basketball and fitting in and their style. It was a pretty easy choice for me.”

Jalen Hudson on difference between ACC and SEC: 

“I think it’ll be pretty similar, they obviously say the ACC is a lot better, and I haven’t played in the SEC yet, so I’m excited to see, but I think they’ll be very similar. It’s still very tough basketball and I think it’ll be a good experience.”

Jalen Hudson on who helped him get accustomed to Florida the most: 

“First off, I’d probably say the coaches. Coach Mincy and Coach White, also Coach Nichols, but of the guys, I’d say Kasey Hill, John Egbunu, Devin Robinson and Chris Chiozza as well have helped me adjust. They’re all veteran guys that have been here for a little longer than most of the other guys, so they’ve definitely helped me and just bumped me right along.”

Eric Hester on why he came to Florida: 

“I was coming to Florida no matter what. I was one of Coach White’s first commits. We built a relationship, I felt like he believed in me when some people didn’t, and some coaches kind of backed off. He just kept pursuing after me and we built this relationship, and I like the way he’s a really good person. He’s a great coach and I believe he’s going to get me to the next level.”

Eric Hester on hardest adjustment to NCAA basketball:

“Getting up and down the court, because it’s fast, this is definitely different from high school. The game is much faster so that’s going to be the transition I have to work on.”

Dontay Bassett on why he came to Florida: 

“I felt like personally Florida was the choice for me. The coaching staff, the environment, I felt when I got on campus it all clicked. So when I got on campus, I just knew that this was home.”

Dontay Bassett on why he wanted to play for Coach White:

“The system he brought into Florida I really liked, the sets he runs and just the person he is. He really cares about you as a person besides basketball. He’ll check up on you, see how your classes are going and how your family is doing. He really cares about us.”

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