Mike White and Gators ready for home debut

Mike White and his Florida Gators are 1-0 and headed home for the first time this season. The boys in orange and blue will be matched up against North Carolina A&T (0-1) Monday night a team that lost handily 81-40 while the Gators were beating the Midshipmen of navy Friday night 59-41.

Florida (1-0) vs North Carolina A&T

Monday, November 16, 2015; 8 P.M.

Gainesville, Florida; Stephen C. O’Connell Center

TV: (Live stream only) ESPN3

The Gators are looking forward to the friendly confines of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and probably an outmatched opponent, but Mike White says that the Aggies will throw everything in the book at Florida including a deep bench.

“We’ve watched some film on them,” White said. “They will play a lot of guys. They will be unpredictable in that regard. We have to be prepared to scout a bunch of different personnel. We will see changing defenses like Navy… we will see some man press, zone press, some man-to-man in the half court, see some zone in the half court, we’ll see some 1-3-1, and some based out of bounds offense. We’ll have to prepare for zone and for man.”

The Gators enter the contest as prohibitive favorites, but that is one thing that White and his staff have preached about with their new team and to not get too comfortable.

“They’ll throw a bunch of different stuff at us and obviously we talked to our guys about these are big opportunities,” he said. “Guarantee games are always big opportunities. Throughout the country it is amazing that how many low to mid-major opponents that went against high major opponents this weekend and won.

“Anything can happen in college basketball. This isn’t about ‘I hope we can hold on and beat North Carolina A&T’, it’s about respecting our opponent, whoever it is, and getting better. If we are better tomorrow night than we were against Navy, then everything will take care of itself.”

There were a few things the Gators hope to improve on from the Navy game. Turnovers were an issue for the second straight contest dating back to the exhibition game almost two weeks ago. His team will have to get better at simply passing the ball around than they have been already.

“To a certain extent as a staff we can develop that. I think if we have 8-10 really good passers obviously you would be a good passing team,” White said. “That isn’t what we are and not our biggest strength right now. We are a willing passing team. I don’t want people to think we have selfishness creeping in or anything like that. We make extra passes. We turn down good shots to get better shots. We don’t always see it as well as I‘d hope we would see it. It is easy for me to say, last year having coached the best passer and leader in assists. Kasey has different strengths and Chris Chiozza has different strengths.

“Overall as a team we have to continue to develop our ability to pass to each other when we’re open, on time, and accurately. We can continue to do passing drills and have done a bunch here in the last 24 hours. Every team in the country at this point is realizing what their strengths and weaknesses are. It’s a process and I hope a couple of months from now to be a better team passing the ball than we are today.”

The Gators were also 3-19 from three-point land vs. Navy. Despite the bad numbers, White wasn’t really upset at the shot selection.

“We talk a ton about shot preparation and about our feet,” he said. “We want the shots to be consistent, muscle memory shots, the shots we take every day in practice and the same shots we take in drills. I was pleased about our shot preparation. We took a couple of hurried ones. Some of it is passing and sometimes we take guys out of shots. But, I thought for the most part we got good looks. We shot good (Sunday) and hopefully that carries over to tomorrow night.”

Another issue was getting the ball down inside the paint to the big guys to let them work the ball into the net. Centers John Egbunu and Schuyler Rimmer went long periods of time without good looks inside from their teammates.  

“He’s come a long way as a back to the basket guy and we want to throw it into him,” White said of Egbunu, a sophomore 6-foot-11 transfer from South Florida. “I thought he missed a couple of seal opportunities and Schuyler did as well. In their defense Navy was very good with their defensive effort. They have a unique zone that we don’t have the ability to simulate in practice, because we don’t do that. I am demanding our guards to throw it in there and sometimes we telegraph the passes and don’t see it as quickly as we should see it.

“Those guys aren’t getting enough post touches. They didn’t the other night. They didn’t get it in there cleanly a bunch. That is partly on me, partly on our guards, and partly on our bigs. We have to get better.”

One big highlight so far in this early season is the play of sophomore forward Devin Robinson. The 6-foot-8 multi-talented threat had 13 points and 10 rebounds coming off of the bench Friday. His play garnered him 28 minutes during the game. Robinson may or may not see the starting lineup soon.

“I don’t care who starts, and I don’t care who our sixth man is, it might change from game to game,” White said. “I just want all the guys to continue to improve. Devin happens to be coming off a couple of weeks where he is really playing well. Of course he is playing all these minutes so I guess he may be perceived to be the sixth man, but he may start this game or he may start five games from now or he may never start. It’s up to Devin and the rest of these guys.

“I think DeVon Walker played at a really high level defensively at Navy, even though he only scored two points. I was really pleased with his defensive effort and he was a big factor on that end. Dorian (Finney-Smith) of course is playing the four and is a guy I expect to start a lot of games. Devin is fighting those two guys, but there are a couple of other guys that are in that competition as well.

Finney-Smith returned for his senior season and huge things are expected of the 6-8 forward who was the SEC Sixth Man of the Year Award winner a year ago. He struggled offensively in game one scoring only four points, but was solid in other phases of his game including pulling down 12 rebounds.

“Dorian is excited to tip it up,” White said. “He came back for his senior year for all the right reasons. I felt bad we couldn’t get him into an offensive rhythm (Friday night). Credit Navy in knowing when he has the ball in his hands and when he has that thing in space, knowing what he is going to do it and they took a couple of charges. Credit those guys.

“I thought you have to credit him, with a tough night offensively, he sticks his nose in there and really played physically and got some man rebounds that we really needed.”


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