Mike White has learned a few things after his first season as Florida men's basketball coach. Now White hopes to hopes to take those lessons and apply it to the upcoming season.
"As a staff we're priding ourselves in learning on a daily basis, on a yearly basis. We're always open to suggestions. We're always challenging each other. I want my staff to always challenge me," said White during Thursday's media day. "I'll give you five or six things that pop into my head. One, that this is a wonderful place to live. That this is a great job. I've learned I have really, really good guys, really good guys.
"I've learned that our brand is pretty strong," he said. "Recruiting has picked up. We've been received a little bit easier from our recruiting base and hopefully that pays off in the future. But those are the first things that pop in my head."
White like many college coaches, performances on game day and tournament appearances can really help attract the best talent in the country. The Gators, who missed the NCAA tournament last year, are already back at work and hoping to brush away last season's disappointment. UF has been at practice since Monday, and according to White, he "was really pleased" at the competitiveness shown at practice.
"Very competitive, very balanced practices," he said. "Making free throws at a higher rate right now. Lights aren't on bright yet, but that's a positive. Attitude has been good. So, yeah, pleased to this point for sure."
White saw his team hurting by the end of the season, however, he is pleased to say there are no injuries so far, and that he and his staff are working to make sure the Gators are fitter this year.
"Late in the year I regret not taking a few more days off," admitted White. "Maybe finding a few times throughout the year to give them two consecutive days off, which I'm not sure we did last year at all...When you emphasize defense as much as we did last year out of necessity, we had to be really good night-in and night-out with the way we struggled shooting the basketball. I think we got a little bit worn down."
"Defensively and offensively we do want to play pressure basketball. We do want to promote tempo. We've practiced like that the last three days. That doesn't happen overnight. Preston Greene is as good as anyone in the country with off-season conditioning, yet game-shape to play the way we want to play won't take place, real game shape, probably for another month or so."
Options at the Four
White has plenty of options at his disposal who could play at the four. According to the Gator head coach, Kevarrius Hayes and Dontay Bassett have both taken reps at the four. Gorjok Gak, Justin Leon and Devin Robinson have also taken reps at the four, while the latter two have also seen time at the three. White describes it as "healthy competition, "you want them to fight for a couple different spots to a certain extent," he said.
"I do feel good about that four spot right now and the way Keith Stone has had three really good practices, Justin Leon has had three really good practices. Devin Robinson is shooting the ball than he has since I've been here for sure," added White. "We've got to get him back in game shape and it's going to take time. He's just now been released. But I like collectively what we could be at the four in a couple of months.
Devin Robinson's decision to return this year, is "definitely a positive," according to White.
"We had the conversation with Devin, if you want to come back, obviously we'd love to have you back and continue to help you with your development and give you the platform here to continue to improve and continue to be a Gator, and be a productive, successful Gator," said White. "He's come back with a great attitude."
Robinson, who has endured a long recovery from a foot injury, has worked closely with Duke Werner this offseason.
"He's [Duke] been very meticulous and thorough with Devin," said White. "I think that Kevin and Duke have been really smart and patient. He's taken advantage of a guy who can't run and jump around and play live and play versus contact. He's taken advantage of kind of tweaking his stroke a little bit. He's done a lot of form shooting. He's done a lot of chair shooting.
"He's just gotten a ton of reps just working on his stroke simply. He's really shooting the ball well. He's shooting as well as anyone on our team right now. He also probably added a couple pounds up top. So we're excited. We're excited about Devin right now. He's in a good place."
"I felt we could have gotten better at from year one to year two is the simplification of everything. I think that's the goal for every coach," said White. "Once you're playing games, you want your guys to play fast, and you want them to think less and attack more and play with instincts and be able to play at full speed without the paralysis. So that's always a topic of discussion probably in most sports for coaches.
But I felt like when we simplified it specifically offensively late in the year, we were at our best. So we're trying to take that next step to become even similar offensively. Less calls, less calls, more reads, and a little bit more freelance, a little bit more moving, little more cutting, more motion concepts we've added so far. It's a work in progress, but we hope we can be pretty good at it to the point where we're stopping our guys less, especially with our speed in the open floor and giving them as many calls as we gave them last year."
Full Court Press
On Kasey Hill
"I think that he's very similar to what he was last year other than the fact that he's shooting the basketball better. Same routines in terms of ball handling, same amount of film watching, same amount of time spent in the weight room working on speed, quickness and strength. All of those things. He's very similar.
"He has really spent a lot of time in the gym," added White. "He's kind of reinvented his shot. We haven't had a chance to see it a lot in the first three practices, because I don't think he's hunting jump shots, which is a positive.But we'd like to think the work he's put in will pay off in terms of his percentage going up a little bit to try to help this team, to try to help himself, and he's shooting it well from the foul line in practice as well with our pressure free-throw shooting drills.
On Canyon Barry's impact
"Canyon came here to have a chance to play in an NCAA Tournament, to play with high-level players. Canyon wants to win, and I expect him to maintain that mentality more than anything else, whether that means he scores 21 a night or scores 4. That goes for everyone on our team.
He's very capable of scoring the ball, but I think he's underrated in other areas. He's a great communicator. He's always talking. He's a quick thinker. He's a very good passer. He's probably our best post passer right now in evaluating three practices. Kind of sees things before he catches the ball, he's always checking the defense, very good vision. I think he's going to be a good scouting report guy."
On Johnny Egbunu's leadership
"He's stepped up his leadership. He's been more vocal. He's been even keel. He's made really good decisions. He's been pretty mentally tough through -- he's carried a lot of weight, and we've done a lot of running in these last three days and he's been right there with the guards in terms of his physical effort. He's not wearing down. So he's leading a bunch by example."
The biggest strength
"I think this team has good experience. We've got really good depth. In my opinion, we've got really good length. And those would be three of the biggest strengths that stick out with this team, so I think we can be really good defensively and that will be the challenge to this team just like it was last year. Just like it was last year, but I think we can be better this year defensively. I think we can shoot it better."