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Nov 11, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators forward Devin Robinson (1) takes a free throw in the second half against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Florida Gators 80-59. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Mike White and Justin Leon talk St. Bonaventure’s Versatility and Sports Pyschology

Florida men’s basketball has started the season 2-0 and is looking to continue their success on Thursday in their third game vs. the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. The contest will be the Gators’ first home game in Lakeland and tips off at 7 p.m. The game can be streamed on the SEC Network+. The Gators and Bonnies have only played each other once in school history, with Florida taking down St. Bonaventure, 88-75, on December 29, 1979.

Mike White on what needs to improve: “The defense has passed the offense, as much as we’ve stressed it earlier in the practices. I think we’ve got a much higher

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
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

ceiling than we’ve shown, offensively, both verse man and zone. We were pretty porous against zone the other day against Mercer, we’re going to see a similar type zone against St. Bonaventure, so that’s a similar area of concern right now.”

Mike White’s thoughts on St. Bonaventure: “[They’re] very disciplined, very talented, athletic, versatile, one through four can shoot it, one through four can drive you. They do a great job of spacing and putting talented offensive players in spaces to be successful. Jaylen Adams is a terrific point guard, as good offensively as I’m sure we’ve seen this year. They’re a team that had a strong argument to make the tournament last year, have a bunch of guys returning, the A-10 is a terrific league, it’ a great test for us on a neutral floor. It will be a very difficult challenge for us, one that I’m sure our guys will be excited about.”

Mike White on the starting rotation: “Honestly, that’ll be tomorrow night, even into shoot around before those decision are made. I want our guys understanding that they have an opportunity every day to work between the lines. Today, we can have a starter that’s not very good, we could have our ninth-man just dominate practice, and I want there to be a rewards system for that. We’re going to, again, reward guys minutes based on production every day in practice and every game.”

Mike White on Justin Leon and his career-high 17 points vs. Mercer: “He’s really been shooting it well all fall, so it really wasn’t a surprise. I thought Kasey [Hill] and Chris [Chiozza] got him some good looks, and Justin did a good job in transition of running the floor, getting his feet set. He’s a junkyard dog for us, he’s got a crazy motor. Our guys understand and respect the approach that he brings to practice everyday. And he’s a much improved shooter just by being in the gym a bunch, so happy for him to see some results shooting the basketball, but Justin also has to understand continue to let it come to him, just like Devin [Robinson], just like KeVaughn [Allen], and it could be someone else’s night on Thursday, could be Justin’s [Leon] night again, who knows? We’ll see, we just have to take the right shots.”

Mike White on free-throws: “You can see it in their body language, guys are a little bit more confident at the foul line. It’ a big factor for us, it kept us out of the NCAA Tournament last year, singlehandedly. Hopefully this year we continue shooting like this.”

Nov 11, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators guard Kasey Hill (0) goes up for a shot in the second half as Florida Gulf Coast Eagles guard Zach Johnson (5) and forward Demetris Morant (21) defend at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Florida Gators 80-59. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 11, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators guard Kasey Hill (0) goes up for a shot in the second half as Florida Gulf Coast Eagles guard Zach Johnson (5) and forward Demetris Morant (21) defend at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Florida Gators 80-59. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Mike White on mental and physical aspect of free-throws: “We talked a lot about it being mental and physical, and from a physical standpoint, we as a staff and guys were open-minded enough to change, tweak if you will, a couple of guys’ shots, in terms of their technique. So, there’s a physical side to it, and then the mental side, we’ve seen a sports psychologist, we had a guy come in and meet with a few of our guys, and it’s put them in a pretty good place. Again, you hope that moving forward we can be in the same mindset. I’m not sure it’s fixed, I don’t want to sit here and say we’re a great free-throw shooting team, but what we’ve seen the first two games is what we’ve been in practice. You want that to continue of course, our guys are in a pretty good place.”

Mike White on Sports Psychology: “I was approached by a couple of different people, mid to late last season, and I didn’t want it to become more mental than it already was. We were struggling so bad at the foul line. We tried to infuse confidence in our guys in different ways, through trial and error, a bunch of error there. Tons of reps in practice of course. We tried to shoot a bunch of free throws under duress, while winded, to put team pressure, team accountability, on our guys. It helped to a certain extent. But I guess late in the year, circling back, probably just proposed by different guys, and I know sports psychology is becoming more and more popular, really in all sports, and I have a ton of respect for it.”

Mike White on player’s feedback on Sports Psychology: “Oh, very positive. Especially Kasey [Hill], John [Egbunu] and Justin Leon. Again, I made mention of this in the past. I don’t think that our guy only helped us at the foul line, I think that if you can train your mind, sue different methods, to understand how to stay in that place, whatever that place is for you, or whatever that trigger word for you is that keeps you in your place, and keeps you back in that place of calm and confident, those type things, I think it can help you with the rest of your game.”

Mike White on Chris Chiozza getting more minutes vs. St. Bonaventure: “No, not necessarily. I’m open-minded going into each match-up. Chris [Chiozza] is potentially a starter for this team, I think we probably have eight guys, you can start any one of them. Keith Stone is pushing as well as he continues to gain experience, will be a guy that fights for more of an argument to start. But, Chris Chiozza is going to play starter minutes on a pretty frequent basis. He can play 17 minutes vs. Bonaventure, he could play 35, I’m not sure. based on how he’s playing, what type of flow we’re in, and how other guys are playing as well.”

Justin Leon on his recent performances: It feels good to say we made progress winning these past two games and we’re happy right now that we don’t have a loss on our record yet and hopefully we can keep that going.”

Nov 11, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gulf Coast Eagles guard Zach Johnson (5) dribbles the ball in the second half as Florida Gators forward Justin Leon (23) defends at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Florida Gators won 80-59. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 11, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gulf Coast Eagles guard Zach Johnson (5) dribbles the ball in the second half as Florida Gators forward Justin Leon (23) defends at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Florida Gators won 80-59. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Leon on defense: “Defense is a big thing because I don’t think we’re a team that’s going to come out and outscore you, so, therefore we need to really focus on getting a lot of stops and that’s really one of our main focuses when we practice. On the defensive end, trying to get a lot of stops.”

Justin Leon on playing in Lakeland: “It’s what we got to deal with right now, so it is what it is. I hope they come out, but there’s only so much we can do. I know Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa, but I don’t know about Lakeland.”

Justin Leon on any games he’s looking forward to: “I’m looking forward to playing Duke at Madison Square Garden. I’ve never been to New York, so I feel like that will be a nice experience, something fun. And to go and play Oklahoma as well, because that’s where I’m originally from.”

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