The University of Florida’s men’s basketball team may have had an inconsistent run during the 2017-18 season. They may have lost a pair of key offensive contributors to graduation. But for head coach Mike White, things are looking up.
Returning scorers. Healthy big men. A national top-20 recruiting class. White’s charges stand a chance of building on last year’s run to the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.
As UF’s offseason workouts ramped up, White partook in the Southeastern Conference’s men’s basketball teleconference. And while there’s still work to be done, the fourth-year coach is happy with the progress his squad has made. Read on for some of his comments from the conference.
Fifth-year senior Jalen Hudson took Florida fans on an emotional rollercoaster this offseason, as he entered — and backed out of — the 2018 NBA Draft. UF, invariably, is better off because of it: The 22-year-old lead the Gators in scoring and sank a team-high 78 three-pointers.
Although he acknowledged Hudson’s flaws, White believes the guard stands to improve this season. White also noted that his return will both buoy the team and his draft stock.
“He’s ready to roll,” White said. “He feels like he’s in a good place, having learned a lot through the process. …
“I think a lot of people, just like you and I, are very high on his ability to get baskets, but he’s gotta reach some of the potential that he’s got — or more, rather than some — on the glass and on the defensive end.”
Florida, at various points last season, was undermanned. Injuries — ranging from torn ACLs to concussion-related issues — sidelined some Gators for stretches of time, while others — like Gorjok Gak — battled through ailments of their own.
For what may be the first time in his tenure at UF, White has a healthy roster at his disposal. That fact isn’t lost on him.
“I’m holding my breath any time there’s a loose ball and we’ve got guy hitting the floor, or there’s a mosh pit under the rim for a tough rebound,” White said. “I’m just hoping we can remain healthy until November.”
Should injuries continue sparing his team, White’s players could benefit from intra-squad competition.
The graduations of Chris Chiozza and Egor Koulechov left a considerable hole in Florida’s offense: The experienced pair generated 32.7 percent of UF’s points over the 2017-18 campaign.
However, the development of some players — and the recruitment of others — have White excited.
What his team lacks in star power, it makes up for in depth. White hopes that fact will afford his club some tactical flexibility and ease their transition into the post-Chiozza era.
“Big shoes to fill,” White said. “I think that KeVaughn Allen and Mike Okauru and Jalen Hudson, they’ll have something to say about Andrew (Nembhard) stepping in right away and filling those shoes. I think, again, we’ll have a lot of healthy competition there.”
The crown jewel of Florida’s 2018 recruiting class, point guard Andrew Nembhard was among the nation’s most coveted prospects. Ranked sixth nationally at his position by 247sports, the native of Thornhill, Ontario, is among the frontrunners to replace Chiozza as UF’s primary ball-handler.
Despite conceding that Nembhard is a raw talent, White was enthused about the incoming freshman’s physical and technical gifts. Along with fellow recruit Noah Locke, the Canadian figures to strengthen a guard position that already features the likes of Allen, Okauru, Hudson and Deaundrae Ballard.