Florida used 11 players in a 59-41 win over Navy in the season opener and 14 in a 104-54 win over North Carolina A&T on Monday. The difference on Monday was two extra walk ons -- Zach Hodskins and Jhonny Victor -- plus the return of junior college transfer Justin Leon.
But how many players do the Gators use in the rotation over the course of the season? That’s still up in the air. Senior forward Alex Murphy is out while battling a partial tear of the plantar fascia in his right foot and won’t return for 2-4 weeks. When he does come back, he will also be involved.
It’s a challenge that first-year coach Mike White is still trying to figure out. He played “eight or nine guys” at Louisiana Tech last season, but each roster is different. However, the Gators will play with the same tempo that White’s teams have used in the past and the added depth could be useful in that way.
“I just think it’s our strength right now,” White said of Florida’s depth. “We have such parity. We don’t have six or seven guys who have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack, so, why not take advantage of it when we can, as long as guys are playing well. I feel good about the health of our mentality in the locker room right now and I’m just trying to take advantage of our depth, but again, if we have eight guys that are just playing really, really well and they’ve separated themselves, then we might shorten it, but we may not at the same time. I’d like to have 12 who are playing unbelievably well. That would be a nice problem to have.”
The increased depth has allowed White and the Florida staff to rotate players and keep the starters fresh. It helps them perform better late in the game and should help them have more energy late in the season.
Through the first two games this season, no Florida player has been on the floor for more than 28 minutes. Devin Robinson had that number against North Carolina A&T while Dorian Finney-Smith played 26 minutes in the same game and Kasey Hill played 26 minutes against Navy.
“It’s nice having a deep team like this year because you don’t have to worry about getting too tired, you’re in for five to six minutes at a time, play hard, and then you know you’ve got good people coming in to relieve you,” Florida point guard Chris Chiozza said. “It’s a little different if you’re used to playing a lot, you don’t get as many minutes, but it’s not about the quantity, it’s about the quality you put in. I like the system.”
EGBUNU MAKING STRIDES
Through the first two games of the season, Florida center John Egbunu is averaging 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. The 6-11, 255-pounder has four blocked shots and three steals, and while most of his reputation has come on the defensive end of the floor, Egbunu has shown consistent progress on the offensive end of the floor since White and his staff came to Gainesville.
"He's a hard worker,” White said. “He's a guy that often will spend time staying after practice and getting extra reps with lefty hooks, righty hooks and getting at the foul line. He's definitely a threat in there, and he's just scratching the surface offensively as a catch and finish guy, a lob catcher behind the defense, above the rim, as an offensive put back guy, he's pretty good right now. I think when he starts gaining confidence and getting more reps and experience with scoring one-on-one with his back to the basket, all of a sudden you have a real offensive threat at the five."