The Florida Gators basketball team is getting ready to take off for its annual holiday tournament.
The Gators will spend the week of Thanksgiving in one of the most beautiful places in the world, but head coach Mike White wants to make one thing clear: This is a business trip.
Getting 18-to-22-year-olds to wrap their heads around that can be a little easier said than done.
“You’re on a level playing field because every other team is dealing with the same thing,” White said. “I think there will be certain teams that go off on all these excursions and treat it halfway like a vacation and certain teams that don’t. But you never know how much of a factor that is either. I think each team is different and specific to your team, who knows which button is the right one to press. I guess it just all depends on your guys in your locker room.”
Based on the guys in his locker room and what he’s seen from this team in the early going this season, there won’t be much time for relaxation in the Bahamas.
The Gators will play three games in a matter of three days in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, starting with Oklahoma on Wednesday and any combination of Stanford, Wisconsin, Virginia, Butler, Dayton or Middle Tennessee the following days.
That’s a big jump from the Charleston Southern and La Salle teams Florida saw the last two games. It could mean a great payoff with some resume building wins or put the Gators back in their place as FSU did in the season opener.
“We’ve just gotta tighten up in a lot of areas if we’re going to be a very good team,” White said. “Our schedule is brutal and there is no time for having an average practice or having an average performance in a game by guys that are really capable.”
Either way, Florida will know a lot more about the type of team it is after this week. Intensity levels and pressure to perform have been increasing in practices, and the players seem to think they will step up to the challenge when the time comes.
“I think the guys will definitely be focused,” said senior guard Jalen Hudson. “We’ve been going super hard in practice. We’re ready to kind of show the coaches that we’re better than what they think we are.”