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Mar 23, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Florida Gators head coach Mike White talks to CBS announcer Verne Lundquist during practice the day before the East Regional semifinals of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Basketball Media Day Recap

In just two years, Mike White has gone from the mid-major coach who was bound to be overshadowed by the Billy Donovan era to one of the University of Florida’s premier coaches. It’s never easy to replace a living legend, but White’s success on the court and in the recruiting spectrum has swayed the opinion of many longtime Gator fans.

At his first press conference of the year, White praised the work ethic of his freshmen, clearly stated the pressure on Chris Chiozza’s shoulders and clarified the role of numerous fresh faces including Egor Koulechov and Jalen Hudson. Even if you’re not a fan of White’s coaching style or recruiting prowess, his ability to be blunt and honest about his team is something to be respected. Below is all the information you need to know from Florida media day.

Mike White

Going into this season, Mike White will have to address several issues. He’ll have to overcome the loss of four seniors, three of whom received major minutes. White will also have to learn how to win in a SEC that is far different and significantly more talented than last season. Below are Mike White’s most important comments from media day.

Players

Kasey Hill, Justin Leon, Canyon Barry, Devin Robinson and Schuyler Rimmer are now a part of Florida’s past. Newcomers this season include freshmen Michael Okauru, Chase Johnson, Isaiah Stokes and Deaundrae Ballard, newly eligible shooting guard Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov, a graduate transfer from Rice. Below are comments from the entire team.

Mar 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Florida Gators guard Chris Chiozza (11) shoots the ball against Wisconsin Badgers guard Khalil Iverson (21) during overtime in the semifinals of the East Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Chiozza

  • Chiozza on potentially playing 30+ minutes a game this season…“I’m going to have to be prepared for it, take care of my body more than I ever have and get more treatment, listen to the trainers, get more sleep. It’s going to be a long season, but I’m going to do whatever it takes for us to get some wins.”
  • Chiozza on who will play backup point guard…“He’s a great player, so I’m not sure between him and Jalen Hudson and Michael Okauru, who’s gonna be the backup, they all have the ability to play point guard when I’m tired or if I get into foul trouble and everything.”
  • Chiozza on how often he sees and hears about his game-winning shot vs. Wisconsin… “I hear about it almost every day still. I try not to think about it, but at some point in the day, somebody says something about it. I don’t get on Twitter too much, but every time I get on there, there’s some Gator fans and they’re always having a little picture and always battling with Georgia fans.”
  • Chiozza on stepping up and making big plays…“I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself, especially in the crunch time. If we need a big play, I’m not scared to take the shot, but often times I pass it up because I’m a pass-first player and we have other guys that are big-time players, so I just try and make the play that I think is best and I have to live with the outcome.”
  • Chiozza on the new freshmen class…“It’s a lot of talent. Deaundrae Ballard is an elite scorer, he’s probably the best scorer I’ve seen and he hasn’t even played a college game yet. I’m going to expect a lot from him scoring wise and he’s a hustle player. He plays good with a lot of energy and heart. Mike [Okauru] is a high energy player too, Chase [Johnson] is crazy athletic and you’re going to see him catch a couple of dunks. Like Spidey [Hayes], he’s going to get a lot of rebounds. He’s hard to block out. I see a lot of him and hopefully [Isaiah] Stokes comes back because he’s a big body, huge, but he’s got a touch like a guard. His touch is incredible and he’s got it in both hands.”
  • Chiozza on the new weapons this team has…“In practice yesterday, we had a 2-hour practice, he might have missed two shots. It adds another weapon we have between KeVaughn [Allen], Jalen [Hudson], Deaundre [Ballard] and all the other guys we got like Keith [Stone]. We have a lot of players that can stretch the floor with their ability to shoot threes and then we also have a lot of players that can shoot the three, but also get to the hole and finish. So, add him, and it’s going to open up the floor a lot more for people to get to the hole. He’s almost automatic.”
  • Chiozza on the young guys buying into defense…“We have a lot of young players coming in and they might not understand the importance of defense. I know I didn’t when I got to college, so we just got to be on them every day about defense and how it actually wins games. You’ve got to score obviously, but if the other team doesn’t score, you don’t have to score but two points.”
  • Chiozza on how the program has changed since he’s gotten to Florida…“We’ve come a long way, like you said, when Coach Donovan left, my freshman year when Coach Donovan was here, was a rough year. We didn’t make the NIT, we had a losing record. Then, sophomore year, Coach White came and he really focused on turning this team around, getting the culture where it needed to be and you know, we had a winning season, but we went to the NIT. Last year, was the first year that everybody, I felt, everybody was ready to buy in. We realized how good of a team we was able to be and we probably still never reached our full potential, but we had spurts where you could see just how good we could be, so this year we have a chance to be that team again. If we have everybody bought in, we have a good chance of being a great team.”

KeVaughn Allen

  • Allen on Chris Chiozza’s poise…“Cheese, he can shoot, he can score, he can do everything as far as a player is involved.”
  • Allen on what he needs to improve on this season…“Being more of a leader.”
  • Allen on the freshmen’s work ethic…“They’re always in the gym. I walk in the gym and peek inside and I’ll always see the freshmen in there, working out together and they’re just trying to work on their game and get better.”
  • Pre-game Playlist: Whatever the team is playing that day.
Jan 21, 2017; Hattiesburg, MS, USA; Rice Owls guard Egor Koulechov (4) gestures after making a 3-point shot at the buzzer in the first half against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Reed Green Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Egor Koulechov

  • Koulechov on coming to Florida…“It’s very different. You know, I started out at a private high school which was about 800 students. Then I went to Arizona State which was like 70,000 students, so that was a shocker to me. Then I go to Rice and it’s like 3,500 undergraduate students. Now I come back here to Florida where I feel like it’s more of a home to me. Campus is big, but as big as the campus is and as many students as there are, I really feel like it’s still small.”
  • Koulechov on his playing style…“Tough, hard-nosed, play hard. Like I said, try and play the best role I can for my team and shoot a lot of threes.”
  • Koulechov on who he is looking forward to playing with…“My roommates honestly. I live with Chris Chiozza, Jalen Hudson and John Egbunu. I can’t wait to have John back on the court and I’m really looking forward to playing with Chiozza. I think we’ve got great guys and it’s going to be a great year.”

Jalen Hudson

  • Hudson on what he’s most excited for this season…“Probably most excited to just play in front of Gator Nation and get a W as time runs out. I think that’s so surreal and what I’m most excited for.”
  • Hudson on the biggest improvement he needs to make this season…“Probably getting my body right just to get ready for the long season. Obviously, I sat out last year, so I was trying to do a lot of things that mimic a season. And a lot of stuff in the weight room and a lot of stuff on the court doing extra stuff like that and getting good sweats in.”
  • Hudson on his playing style…“I’m exciting. I’m definitely someone to look forward to.”
  • Pre-game Playlist: Meek Mill
  • Favorite NBA Player: LeBron James

Keith Stone

  • Stone on the biggest stride he needs to make this season…“With me, I over help too much on defense, which has become a problem with other teams, so I learned not to help too much and how to stay down on defense.”
  • Stone on overcoming the loss of four key seniors…“Last year we had a lot of communication, but this year communication isn’t as vocal, but it’s getting better each and every day in practice and workouts.”
  • Stone on what he’s looking forward to most this season…“I’m looking forward to creating memories for these guys, it doesn’t last forever. Kasey [Hill] told me enjoy every moment of it because it doesn’t last forever.”
  • Pre-game Playlist: Kodak Black, Childish Gambino, Migos, Chainsmokers
Mar 26, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Florida Gators head coach Mike White talks to forward Kevarrius Hayes (13) during the second half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the finals of the East Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Kevarrius Hayes

  • Hayes on what he needs to improve most this season…“Working in the post [this offseason] will definitely be a benefit. If I can be more accountable down there, like if you’re going to pass it to me I’m going to score on a catch and release with pressure from the outside and being more physical on defense as well. Trying to build up size and get bigger and stronger. I feel like I sort of excelled in that area over summer.”
  • Hayes on the difference in identity this year from last season…“You want to be the same team that you were before, but you also have to understand that there’s a different set of players, who are also better in different areas. So we may not have the same caliber team, but we still have just as capable of a team as last year, so I feel like if everyone buys in and does the work and if we get better on defense and put in the work, we’ll be good.”
  • Hayes on who he is looking forward to playing…“Excited to play Kentucky, Florida State and can’t wait to get back to South Carolina.”
  • Hayes on what freshman has really impressed him…“I would say, Chase Johnson. I guess he is kind of like me in a way, he’s a good rebounder with high energy.”
  • Pre-game Playlist: Macklemore

Isaiah Stokes

  • Stokes on what he was most looking forward to at Florida…“Getting together with a group of guys that’s part of the winning culture. I was just happy to be a part of that. Just playing in the SEC, one of the biggest conferences out here, maybe the biggest conference out here, I mean the best conference out here. Just ready to be a part of that culture.”
  • Stokes on who he looked forward to playing with at Florida…One of them is Chris Chiozza. He’s from my hometown Memphis and Jalen Hudson. That’s the one who took me on my visit and the one who took me under his wing when I got here.”
  • Stokes on his playing style…“I would say I’m a defender, a playmaker and looking to get my teammates involved.”
  • Pre-game Playlist: Yo Gotti and Young Dolph
  • Favorite NBA Player: Carmelo Anthony

Chase Johnson

  • Johnson on his playing style…” Very athletic, I can play the stretch-4, I can shoot and I can dribble. I can rebound and I can pass to my teammates. I’m just a playmaker and I’m not selfish. I want my teammates to win and to get my teammates the ball whenever I can.”
  • Johnson on who he looked forward to playing with at Florida…“I really wanted to play with Jalen Hudson. I knew he was at Virginia Tech before this and when I came on my visit he was my host. We got pretty close with each other and have a really good bond.”
  • Johnson on what he’s looking forward to the most at Florida this season…“Probably playing in front of the Rowdy Reptiles at the O’Connell Center. That place gets crazy and the atmosphere is just wonderful.”
  • Johnson on what he thought of Florida before the recruiting process…“I grew up A Florida fan. I had a couple Florida shirts and I watched them here and there every once in a while, but I didn’t really think they would end up offering me. Once they offered and I told my dad, it was like, do I really need an official visit because we’ve been Florida fans my whole life.”
  • Pre-game Playlist: Moneybagg Yo and Kodak Black
  • Favorite NBA Player: LeBron James

Deaundrae Ballard

  • Ballard on his decision to come to Florida…“Coaching, players. [We] have the best coach. He’s loving family, looking out for everybody and I wanted to be a part of that team.”
  • Ballard on his playing style…“Really smooth, athletic, energetic, a shooter and a natural scorer.”
  • Pre-game Playlist: Doesn’t listen to music before the game. Chooses to meditate instead.
  • Favorite NBA Player: Michael Jordan
Feb 14, 2017; Auburn, AL, USA; Florida Gators center John Egbunu (15) makes a dunk against the Auburn Tigers during the first half at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

John Egbunu

  • Egbunu on the team’s new identity…“We’ve got a new group of guys, but so far they’re catching on pretty well, so that’s exciting. They’re learning and we’re looking forward to playing our first game and going from there and making the necessary adjustments.”
  • Egbunu on this year’s freshmen class…“Good group of guys, hard working. They’re always in the gym. They’re willing to win so it’s been great so far.”
  • Egbunu on what he needs to improve most this season…“Staying healthy for me. Last two seasons I haven’t had the ability to do that.”

Gorjok Gak

  • Gak on his experience playing for Australia in the 2017 World University Game…“It was fun, it was a really good tournament, playing with a couple of college guys too, so it helped my preparation. Great experience and head start for me.”
  • Gak on his playing style…“I can pass the ball, dribble the ball and score. I can do a bit of everything.
  • Pre-game Playlist: 2pac

Michael Okauru

  • Okauru on what he was looking most forward to at Florida…“I felt the family environment with the players. I saw how the coaches treated the players and I really loved that. Also, when I went to the game, the atmosphere and the crowd, you could really say that Florida is a big sports town and they love their teams and I really appreciate that.”
  • Okauru on his favorite Florida player, past or present…“When I was in middle school, Kasey Hill was like one of my favorite high school players, so I watched like all of his mixtapes and all that. I knew I wouldn’t be able to play with him cause he was a senior, but coming here and seeing him work, that was big for me.”
  • Okauru on his playing style…“I’m an athletic playmaker, I play the game real fast and I like to get into the lane and get my teammates involved and make the game easier.”
  • Pre-game Playlist: Kodak Black
  • Favorite NBA Player: Russell Westbrook

Dontay Bassett

  • Bassett on what he gained from watching the team from the sidelines last season…“I got to see the speed of the game, see how aggressive and how much energy both teams played with. Just kind of prepared me for this year.”
  • Bassett on his playing style…” Very energetic, I love to rebound and play defense and try and help my team in any way possible.”
  • Bassett on what he’s most looking forward to this season…“Looking forward to building chemistry with my teammates and trying to get as much momentum so that we can have a good start to the season.”
  • Pre-game Playlist: Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage, Chief Keef and Drake.

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