Mike White challenges Florida Gators’ mental toughness

Florida Gators head basketball coach Mike White is still questioning his team’s mentality entering the final two weeks of the 2020-21 season.

The Gators split games with Arkansas and Georgia last week. And while White saw improvement in the first 30 minutes of the Georgia win, he still wants less selfishness and more mental toughness.

The lack of mental toughness can be found in Florida’s turnover problems of late. The Gators turned it over 16 times against the Razorbacks and 12 times against the Bulldogs.

White is most concerned about his team’s late-game miscues. Florida gave the ball away four times in the last five minutes on Saturday, allowing Georgia to close in on a 15-point deficit.

“We have turnover issues on this team,” he said. “We do. Our guards have to improve … We’re playing faster than we have in the previous couple of years and with that comes a responsibility to make good decisions. Or we’ve got to slow it down a little bit.”

Along with taking care of the basketball comes making good decisions. Though shot selection improved on Saturday, it is still not where the Gators want it to be.

“We’re not unselfish enough,” White said. “I don’t want to sit here and say we’re a really selfish team, but we’ve had some really selfish possessions. We just have. Just calling it like it is.”

In previous seasons, White has made the point that many of his players were unselfish to a fault. KeVaughn Allen is a player in particular he often said this about, especially early in his career.

Last season, White said there were between four and six guys he had to keep in check when it came to shot selection. This season, there are even more than that. Typically, he said, there might be one or two from year to year.

“When the lights are on and the juices are flowing, we don’t always make the right decision relative to the best team shot,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to improve, and the best tool we’ve got is, ‘Come over and sit next to us’. We’ve substituted for a lot of reasons, but we’ve substituted for that reason more this season than any season I’ve been a head coach. Not even close.”

While getting yanked can be a confidence killer, sophomore guard Tre Mann confirmed it is effective, because everyone wants to play. They are ready to listen and fix the issues to get back on the court.

“It just lets you know that it’s important to him,” Mann said. “So, if it’s important to him, you’ve gotta make it important to you if you want to win. If he takes you out, it shouldn’t be like a thing where you get down on yourself or mad at him. You’ve just gotta learn from it and get better.”

Mann said he has watched the selfishness and silly mistakes decrease throughout the season, but White continues to challenge the team. He wants his players to beat their chests and celebrate more when a teammate makes a great play, and less when they make one themselves.

Bailiegh Carlton
A lifelong sports fan, Bailiegh Carlton knew from a young age that she wanted to work in sports in some capacity. Before transferring to the University of Florida to study journalism, she played softball at Gulf Coast State College. She then interned for Gator Country for three years as she worked toward her degree. After graduation, Bailiegh decided to explore other opportunities in the world of sports, but all roads led her right back here. In her time away, she and her husband welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world. When she isn't working, she can almost always be found snuggled up with sweet baby Ridley, Cody and her four fur babies.