Mike White and Gators not in the relaxing mode

When pushed to answer if there was a little “pep in their step” after finally winning a couple of games in a row this month, Florida head coach Mike White quickly diffused that notion lamenting that the Gators have a lot of work to do to get where they want to be.

“No pep in our step,” White scoffed when asked. “We had the day off yesterday. We spent the majority of yesterday watching Auburn and now I have a Canty (Auburn guard Kareem Canty) headache. At this time of year, in this league, there is no time to celebrate anything. There wasn’t a lot to celebrate the other day in terms of our performance except that we were fortunate to win one.

“Today we are going to get after it and have a hard practice. It will be really competitive and centered on defense. We will start the scouting report in terms of how to slow these guys down.”

Consistency has been an issue for Florida in all facets of the game. The Gators play terrific defense and yet there are times where they have lapses from one game to the next even in that area. On Tuesday night, Mississippi State guard I.J. Ready scored 20 on Florida and was really disruptive. That followed a night when the Gators were on the road and did a terrific job on Ole Miss’s Stafon Moody.

“I don’t know how we do such a great job (at Ole Miss) and just an average job here,” he said about that part of the game at home in Gainesville. “Ready, to his credit, was terrific and had a chance to win the game. He did whatever he wanted. Ready was just as good defensively. In fact we are just about to watch some clips here of our offense against Mississippi State’s defense and he did a really good job on our point guards, really blowing up actions and not allowing our guys to get into ball screens. I thought he did a really good job offensively and defensively.

Auburn knows us well and we are all trying to be more consistent and today’s another step toward that.

One guy that has been pretty consistent since the start of SEC play is junior college transfer Justin Leon. Leon has seen his minutes dramatically increase since the start of the season and is without a doubt one of the top effort guys on the team.

Leon was recruited and signed at Louisiana Tech when White was the head coach there. Asking out of his scholarship after White left, he eventually signed with Florida.

“I saw him at a junior college event with (assistants) Jordan Mincey and Dusty Maye had already stated recruiting him, because coincidentally he had gone to Conway high school and we had a kid already from Conway High School at Louisiana Tech,” White said. “We knew he was putting up numbers at a junior college in Illinois. We saw him at the Mullen Showcase for the top 100 or so junior college players in the country. When Jordan and I saw him there, we just fell in love with how he battled and how competitive he was. He showed a lot of toughness. He made some shots and was a good athlete. We knew he was a great kid and from there the process started.

“Anytime you have a 6-8 kid that is as competitive as him and then we found out he was that competitive on a daily basis, it gives him the opportunity to compete at this level. He’s not the most talented guy in our program, but he is arguably the toughest and most competitive.”

Gators getting healthy…

Florida is rounding into close to full health as they hit the middle of the SEC schedule. Senior Alex Murphy is still out battling Plantar Fasciitis, but senior center Schuyler Rimmer is feeling much better from his illnesses

“Rimmer is getting better and better,” White said. “He’s still gaining weight after being sick a little bit. He could log some minutes who knows, depending on how these couple of days go.”

White says there is nothing wrong with junior DeVon Walker. He just hasn’t seen playing time in the last couple of games and that could change at any time.   

“He’s had a great attitude,” White said of Walker. “He’ll come to practice and go to work today. Who knows, he might get his number called. A lot depends on our preparation and production over a couple of days of practice.”

The Gators play host to Auburn Saturday night at 8 p.m. and can be seen live on the SEC Network.

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