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Feb 14, 2018; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Mike White on the sideline during overtime against the Georgia Bulldogs at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

Mike White talks Gak, defense, culture

Florida Gators coach Mike White addressed the media on center Gorjok Gak, defense and culture on Thursday.

Here’s what White had to say as the Gators’ season opener approaches.

Gak is Out

White announced Gak suffered a dislocated left shoulder during practice.

Gak’s timetable to return is unknown.

White talked about how devastating it was to learn about the loss of his big man.

“Gorjok Gak is unfortunately, unbelievably hurt again,” he said. “I feel horrible for him…He’s decided to rehab it and give this team what he can give them in time.”

Gak, a 6-foot-11-inch redshirt junior, has missed time the past two seasons due to knee injuries, as well. He was out all of 2018-19 with a torn ACL and battled knee soreness during the 2017-18 season.

Defensive Struggles

While White took time to compliment the offense on Thursday, he made sure to focus on Florida’s defensive struggles.

He cited the Gators’ lack of experience and returning players as reasons for the team’s defensive worries.

“Defensively, some of it is a lack of experience,” he said. “Some of it is a lack of interest with some of these freshmen…Before Gak, we had five returners. Now, we’re down to four. We’ve got nine new guys; six freshmen.”

White also made sure to point out the raw talent the Gators have. He believes their raw talent, especially on offense, can be transferred to the defensive end of the court.

No Need for a Culture Change

Even though Florida has a fresh cast of faces, the injection of youthful energy has created a positive culture for Florida.

White sees this as one of the positive takeaways from the preseason.

“I hate to over kill the culture word, but I really like where we’re at,” he said. “The aura in the gym…guys ready to work, guys getting along…is at a pretty high level.”

White also said the team’s level of competitiveness is high. The players don’t get along as well on the court as they do off of it, which White said he loves to see.

Positive culture and fierce competitiveness should serve Florida well, especially down the stretch of a long season.

Looking Ahead

The Florida Gators have a few tests coming up before the season begins in November.

First, Florida must continue to improve on defense in practice and in preseason. White stressed this as his main concern heading into regular season play.

Florida’s first taste of competitive basketball will be played against Lynn University on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. It will be the Gators first and only exhibition match.

Finally, Florida will kick off its season against UNF on Nov. 5. at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m.

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