ENERGETIC (adj.):operating with or marked by vigor or effect
The word seemed to float on the wind, woven in and out of every explanation and story; the only apt descriptive adjective players could find.
It’s how Alex Murphy, Devin Robinson and Devon Walker all continually described their — and the Florida Gators — new head basketball coach Michael White and his coaching staff.
“He’s very energetic. A young guy, 38 years old. He likes being around us and communicating with us. Already he’s developed a relationship with a lot of us guys. Obviously, we have to continue to build trust, but he’s an energetic guy,” said redshirt senior forward Alex Murphy.
“I think everybody is energetic, optimistic about the upcoming year. I think everybody comes in with a great attitude and we work everyday,” added redshirt junior guard Devon Walker.
And Devin Robinson explained, “They are actually on the court with us, holding the dummies, smacking us with the dummies, they are talking trash to us, they just get us going, get under our skin, boil us up, you just get going. They are out there a lot more physical than the last coaching staff.”
That physicality has been a pleasant surprise to Devon Walker who says, “They’re great, they’re just like players man, they talk trash to you they motivate you, they hype you up. They make noise it’s great. You feel great every time you’re out on the court with them.”
And while the trash talking comes with a grain of salt, with Walker pointing out, “sometimes they might hit you with a pad and say ‘get big,’ or something like that when they’re like tiny”, the 6’6” guard is still happy to take their ribbing because, “that’s how they talk trash to you, not talking down on you, but they get you going.”
While the energetic interaction has so far be contained mostly to 40 minute individual workouts three times a week, players are confident that this will translate seamlessly to the court come tip off.
Murphy has already taken a peak at what might come by watching Louisiana Tech film, White’s former coaching job.
“They play fast. They had some junkyard dogs. When they were in the press they would go take that ball from other teams. They averaged a lot of points. They created a lot of their offense with defense, turning teams over. Offensively, he let those guys play with a lot of freedom. Pretty similar to Coach Donovan, a lot of open court and dribble drive.”
The actual numbers show an average of 73.1 points per game and a 45% average at the end of the 2014-2015 season, compared to the Gators 63.7 ppg while taking 351 less shots.
This shot chart possibility is exciting for Walker who was shooting .309 before an ACL injury sidelined him for the 2014-2015 season.
“It’s great, it’s great. Anytime you get to shoot the ball at least for me it’s great. It should be fun, a lot of shots go up and we should have a high scoring offense.”
He seems confident his .302 average form downtown is likely to take an uptick as well, saying that he watched how LA Tech shot the 3 with “no conscious…no conscious.”
Like he did for 19 years before, Billy Donovan has set the team up for success even after his departure. Robinson says the up tempo pace will be easier to acclimate too for the returners because Donovan was already implementing it.
“The transition will be easy because we’ve played this before; a high pace, we tried to press and stuff. So it’s not gonna be that much different, it’s not like we’re going from a high octane offense to a slow-down Georgetown offense, so it’s not gonna be that much of a difference,” Robinson points out, before adding it will help in what’s becoming an increasingly more difficult SEC schedule, saying, “a lot of SEC players are big and slow maybe so this up pace basketball, trapping everywhere in the corners and stuff, it’s definitely gonna change the tempo.”
Another thing that will change, says Robinson, is the focus after last years dismal performance.
“It’s a different team than last years teams. We have more guys who can play their roles instead of people who wants to be this and that. So it’s gonna be different; we’re gonna play for each other, more team basketball so it’s not just one play here, one play there. We’re all gonna play collectively as a team.”
Some fans, pundits and critics alike will need more convincing. It’s not like it’s a normal coaching carousel. The man who basically built the program has moved on. That’s not something that can be recovered from overnight. The players know that though, and for now, they’re shutting out everything that has been or will be said.
Devin Robinson has only ever know Florida Basketball as Billy Donovan, but now with the chance to be a part of history, his excitement level is kicking up.
“It feels great, just for us to be his first team at the University of Florida, we could make history. I feel really great about being his first team. It’s kinda cool.”
And it’s with that attitude he’s shutting out any haters in the way of their success.
“There’s probably a lot of doubters out there like, oh, Florida is not the same, they are not going to be the same program, they are not going to compete like they used to because they don’t have Coach D. We don’t listen to that. We’re going to keep getting better.”
Devon Walker agrees, commenting, “we don’t really think about it. That’s for everybody else’s opinion. I think everybody in here is joined together, we’re gelling and continue to make this a national program and take us to higher levels.”
For new head coach Michael White, he has three ways to do it. Three simple steps to take a team back to the pinnacle of success where for so long the Florida Gators had been comfortable.
Alex Murphy said in their very first team meeting White outlined his rules for his new team, simply asking that they be followed.
- Be On Time
- Be Loyal
- Be A Man
“The first one was be on time. The second one was be loyal. And the third and last rule was be a man, which sort of encompasses all of those things together. His idea is if you do all of those three things all the time, not only you but the team will be in pretty good shape.”