The Florida Gators basketball team held their annual media day on Tuesday. New head coach Mike White and a fresh cast of players were on hand to preview the upcoming season. One thing they all seemed to agree on was using last season’s disappointing outcome as motivation. “Let’s not question how good we are,” he said. “Challenging our guys instead of questioning our abilities.”
Coach White realizes that is a crucial message to stress to his players coming off of a 16-17 season (8-10 in conference play) and not reaching the postseason for the first time in 17 years. He also emphasized that, despite their record, they had six games- games in which they lost by a mere two points or less- that could have easily gone the other way. He additionally commented on how he was proud of the Florida Gators basketball defense last season, which ranked 11th in the country, and how he hoped to be equally good in that phase of the game this season.
One way the Gators plan to improve is in the area of free throws. Coach White noted that Florida “was second to last in free throw percentage” against them last year. He went on to mention how obviously that is a bit tough to control but that it’s something they are working on to put themselves in a better position for. Fortunately, with a statistic like that, just about the only direction that number can go is up.
Another positive for this year’s Gators, Coach White said that he happened to watch about two-thirds of the Gator games last year. This means that he has been able to evaluate his returning players and what they can best improve on.
Coach White also praised Kasey Hill’s abilities. “Kasey Hill may be the fastest in college basketball,” said White. He also commended Hill, now a junior at Florida, for changing “the way he’s shot for the last 15 years of his life.” One challenge, White did have for the junior was that he has to shoot it better from the foul line and from the arc.
Another player that has caught the young head coach’s eye is Kevaughn Allen. “He has a chance to start,” he added. “Dorian Finney Smith’s going to be hard to beat out.” If the young Allen is already creating a healthy competition with arguably the best player on the team, the future indeed looks bright for the Gators. The wild card that Allen brings to the table is his “contagious intensity level.” This bodes well for Allen as White’s philosophy for the team is to “play with unbelievable energy offensively.” So, it would seem that Allen fits the mold that the coach wants.
White also lauded transfer John Egbunu- who was forced to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer regulations- for his passion. Coach White said he wishes his guys would play loudly and that Egbunu is “passionate with the ball in his hands.”
The recurring theme from White’s statements, and from the team in general, is that the Gators want to use quickness and intensity to outscore and overwhelm every team they play against- a concept that the team has whole-heartedly bought into.