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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 3, 2017
MIKE WHITE: Last week is a little sobering, obviously. I feel for a lot of student-athletes involved and coaches and families, but I don't think it's going to be a huge factor in terms of how many people watch college basketball this year. I don't, again, going back to your term, just the overall health that I think of course there are some things in the sport that need to be addressed like every sport.
But we haven't paid a lot of attention to it, to be honest with you. I'm sure you guys know a lot more about what's going on than we do. We're just going to keep doing things the way that we've been doing them here.
Q. I know you challenged Chris over the off-season with his conditioning and leadership and so forth, just what have you seen from him in terms of over the summer and in individual drills as far as maybe how he's taken on that challenge?
MIKE WHITE: Chris has become a little bit more vocal. It's really not his nature to be an overly vocal guy. And I'm good with that. It's who he is. He's been a very good leader by example to this point. I think he's also a supportive leader in the locker room and at the apartments and in the dorms. He's a relationship guy. So in those ways he's actually vocal outside the lines. We'll continue to try to challenge him to be a little more vocal between the lines, but pleased with his effort to this point. He's been really good defensively, too, in some of the abbreviated practices to this point.
Q. Can you give us an update on the health status of Stokes and then Egbunu?
MIKE WHITE: Yeah, we've been really banged up here lately. I don't know what's gotten out and what hasn't. But Stokes and Egbunu. Duke's really pleased with their effort so far. They're right on track. We're looking probably January. He's sticking to that.
Duke, would you argue with that? We good, January? Are you sure not December? He says no way, January.
Of course Gak's been a little banged up with his knee. He played a bunch this summer and represented Australia. Played really well, in my opinion. We've held him out of workouts here recently. Hope to have him back to 100% here soon. Then we've had some other knickknack stuff. Jalen Hudson, he had a little illness there.
We had the effects of Irma come through, and we're an out of season sport, so with school being cancelled, we couldn't work out. So we lost a few workout there's. We're trying to play catch-up a little bit, trying to get healthy. But that's kind of where we are right now.
Q. Just in terms of Jalen Hudson's productivity, I know a lot of the reason for criticism of Hudson is his defense. Now he's a bona fide scorer. Have you seen his defense improve over the off-season, and how many minutes could you see him playing in this season?
MIKE WHITE: Yeah, it will all depend on his buy-in, his attention to detail, his accountability defensively and on the glass. I hate to -- I just want to be clear that the criticism has come from me. I try to be as honest as possible when you guys ask me questions and tell you guys, for the most part, exactly what I'm telling these guys, and Jalen knows that. He'll be the first to tell you that his offense is in front of his defense.
That said, it's not that his defense is horrible. He just, offensively, he's really good. He's very talented, and he's working on that buy-in. He understands it. He'll remind me when he gets a hard rebound in practice or a defensive stop. He's a talented kid. He's a great kid. He's working hard. His minutes will be dependent upon, for the most part, his attention to detail in those areas.
Also will depend upon how other guys are playing because we've got a few guys. We've got pretty good depth. Flow of the game, foul situations, opponents, attention to scouting report, all those things will go into play, but Jalen will play a bunch of minutes this year.
Q. Not to say there weren't internal expectations before, but obviously when you get to the Elite Eight, return a bunch of guys, the outside expectations raise up. Can that be a good thing, and how do you approach that?
MIKE WHITE: I think it's good for our fans, it's good for recruiting, just adds a little bit more excitement around a program. I just don't think it's got a big bearing on how we play. We're going to practice to a certain standard every day. We've got high-character guys. They want to be as good as they possibly can be as players and as a team. The run last year I think gave us a little bit more confidence in terms of what we're doing and more buy-in.
But I don't -- I don't anticipate much external pressure, if you will, getting to us. We're going to put that on ourselves. Heck, we did that in year one when we were a very average team. I hope we're not a very average team this year. I think we have a chance to be as good as last year, different, whether that equates into the same amount of wins or getting back to the tournament, and if you do, going back to the Elite Eight, I don't know about many of those things, but I do know we have a lot to work with, and we're focused on just being good Thursday. That's it. Result-oriented goals, just really process driven stuff right now.
Q. He red-shirted his freshman year. Keith Stone had a big impact last year. What areas are you looking for him to improve in this year, and what kind of role could he fill?
MIKE WHITE: Keith could potentially be one of the guys, if not the guy that enhances his role the most. He's going to be given a lot of opportunity, he's very talented. He's continued to become a better conditioned athlete, tougher physically and mentally, and he's matured probably as much as anybody. I said that a lot about Devon last year and certainly hope that continues I'm saying that five games into the season, but he's in a good place mentally. He's been vocal in practice. Just a red-shirt sophomore, albeit, but as a younger guy, I'm really pleased with him.
He's working. He's rebounding the ball well, he's trying defensively. We all know he's got some stuff that's hard to teach offensively with his size, and pace, and skill level, his versatility. He's like Jalen, he's a very gifted offensive player.
Q. The Elite Eight run, how much did that put a stamp on this and validate what you're doing here?
MIKE WHITE: Not my program. I'm just renting it right now. You guys are just accepting me for the time being.
Q. But the national perception, what you're doing here, validating it?
MIKE WHITE: I said it when I first got here and I said it to recruits from day one. Florida's always going to win in all sports. We are. It's the standard here. The level of excellence in this athletic department is off the charts. To what extent, I don't know. Florida won before Coach Donovan. Coach Kerr went to the Final Four, Coach Donovan had an amazing run. Florida's going to win after I'm gone. They just are.
We weren't really out to prove to a lot of people that, heck, we know what we're doing or this is my job. I mean, it wasn't any of that. It was just trying to be as good as last year's teams possibly could be. It was nice to at least prove that, hey, we're okay. We're healthy. Just like the rest of the athletic department.
But with Scott Stricklin following Jeremy Foley and the same commitment to resources and facilities, the head coaches this athletic department has and the unbelievable level of student-athlete academically and athletically, this place is always going to win.
Q. The other one is last week's scandal obviously exposed some things, longstanding issues in the sport, how do you go about running a program in terms of checks and balances, the way you recruit guys? How do you go about that to avoid these kind of issues?
MIKE WHITE: First off I would say very carefully, and we're not the only program that approaches it this way, most do. That you want to be careful with everything that's said and who you have relationships with, and how you go about doing what you do. As a staff, you want to be really familiar with the rule book, and you want to have an open line with your compliance department. Jamie McCloskey and Kim Green are really good at what they do. On a very regular basis, we're in constant communication with those guys as a staff, meet on it a bunch.
You know, Scott Stricklin wants to provide our student-athletes with championship experience with integrity, and that's a charge to every coach on this campus every day.
Q. Is there a positive side effect from this that programs who are following skirting the rules, for those will be held accountable and it will be a more balanced playing field now?
MIKE WHITE: Yeah, I just don't want to go there. I think anytime that you've got serious conversations taking place about our sport and how to make it better, that positives can come from it. You hate to see what's happened to some of these guys. I guess that's the best way for me to answer.
Q. How heavy of a workload do you expect from him? How much pressure do you think you can take off him this year?
MIKE WHITE: Yeah, good one. Chris is pretty valuable. We talked about Keith Stone earlier. Chris is going to have an opportunity for his role to be expanded. Maybe not expanded, but to be a little bit more valuable to this team. As valuable as he was to last year's team because he doesn't have that other senior next to him in Kasey Hill, of course, with him graduating.
So he's got -- he's probably got a little bit of a healthy pressure to him on his shoulders. I hope he looks at it that way. Chris isn't a guy, I think you guys would agree to this, that hasn't ever gotten rattled. I think he'll be fine with that. I think he'll embrace it. Pressure is on Mike Okauru a little bit to grow up and hopefully by November, December, he's not playing quite as much like a freshman. He's got to be able to help us, and I think he's excited about that opportunity.
Then KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson as secondary ball handlers, probably KeVaughn first, the way we're seeing it right now, has to be able to slide over and take some of the heat off of Chris and probably play some minutes or be able to in a pinch, for sure at that point guard spot.
Q. Coach White, with Egbunu out and Stokes out, and besides Hayes not having too much of a true center, how confident do you feel on your front court depth in one of the most physical leagues in the country?
MIKE WHITE: Still pretty confident. I think if we can get Gorjok back -- if we had a game tomorrow, we'd be hurting in that front line if we had some foul trouble, of course. So we had a rolled ankle. But if we get Gak back, you're looking at Hayes, and Gak, and Stone, and Chase Johnson, and Dontay Bassett. You've got some depth there. You've got guys that are all a little bit different. You've got guys that are going to play hard.
I think we know what we're going to get for the most part, at least from a couple of those guys, from a few of those guys. But certainly we'll go from having some questions to becoming very deep in the front court when you get John back.
With Isaiah, the question may come, so I'll just answer it right now, there is still a chance there that a decision we made on whether or not he plays this year.
Q. Going back a little bit, point guard, KeVaughn Allen, how many strides has he made in handling the ball and maybe being able to slide over there and give you some good minutes?
MIKE WHITE: I think he made some strides going into last year and then during last season just making decisions with the basketball. I don't think he gets overly careless with it, but he's got such a scoring mentality that that's been as much a factor as much as his decisions with the ball or him being able to take heat or ball pressure. Because we want mentally for him to be really aggressive, just sometimes your point guard is your volume shooter and scorer. Other guys are standing there watching. So that played as much a part into our decisions with not playing him at the point as much as the others, as well as the fact that you had two other veteran point guards that are pretty good at what they did last year. Kasey finishing as an All-league player, of course, and Chris finishing the way he did.
So I think KeVaughn will be fine sliding over this year. I think we'll be different with him at the point. He actually played some yesterday. Mike went out, again, it was abbreviated practice, but Mike went out with a bump and bruise, and KeVaughn led one of the teams at the point. As a staff, we looked over and said we have KeVaughn at point, we've got these two guys in the wings making shots. That's a pretty potent lineup in terms of scoring it. The ball didn't move quite as much, but he'll be able to play some point for us.
Q. You talk about a guy at the wing. I assume you're talking about Egor there. His numbers were fantastic coming in.
MIKE WHITE: Yeah.
Q. Has he been even better in person than he was on paper?
MIKE WHITE: I'll shoot you straight, yeah, yeah. A little bit better. Than I even anticipated. Plays really hard, leads by example, vocal at times, but trying to find his way as he's developing relationships with these guys. Really consistent, plays with a tremendous motor and can make shots and sprint into them, and takes good ones. Really pleased with him.
Of course, I'm sitting here like most coaches in the country, really pleased with our team. Like most guys, we haven't lost yet. But we've got a ways to go to be as good as we can possibly be. But I like the contributions we're getting in practice from a bunch of these guys right now. And they're working.
Q. You referenced your team could be just as good but a little different. How differently, how so?
MIKE WHITE: I think we could be better potentially, and I could be eating my words in December, but I'm being honest with you, I think we could be better offensively. I think we finish 24th maybe in numbers last year. I'm not sure we can be quite as good defensively. If this team is as good defensively as last year's team, we'll be really good. We're going to strive for that every day.
If you're a Top 10 team defensively nationally year-in and year-out, you're going to have a lot of success every year. This team, I don't think the mental and physical make-up will be as easy for this team to make it a Top 5 defensive team in the country like last year's group, but we'll try. Maybe they'll surprise us.
I think we have more weapons offensively. I think we'll shoot it better offensively. That's it. For the most part, those are my thoughts.
Q. How are the freshmen coming along? Do you anticipate any guys early that you feel could contribute right away?
MIKE WHITE: Yeah, so, Stokes out right now, of course. We talked about Mike a little bit. Mike is very fast. He's got a lot of talent defensively, similar to Chris Chiozza in his ability to contest shots but stay in front of the basketball, create a little havoc on the basketball. Great speed off of the basketball, really good rotator, communicates well. He is a work in progress in terms of becoming a pure point, as he knows. But he's got a great work ethic.
That's one thing I can say across the board with our freshmen class. I've been blown away by the work ethic. My freshmen class lives in the gym. Lives in the gym. They've been terrific in that regard. Mike's in the gym a bunch. Chase Johnson's in the gym as much as probably anybody on our team outside of Deaundrae Ballard. Chase has had a very good fall. He's tough, he's versatile. He's athletic. He's competing every day with Keith Stone and Egor and those type guys. He's had some good workouts.
As Mike's trying to find minutes at the one and the two, Chase is pushing Keith Stone in that front court. Then Deaundrae Ballard, I've never had a guy in 18 years be in the gym as much as this kid's been in the gym since he got here in summer B. Relentless work ethic. Really good score. Has a lot to learn about our system, just like these other freshmen. And he's pushing these veteran wings. Got a lot of options there of course, but really pleased with these guys to this point.
Q. Obviously on paper this league got a lot better than last year. Do you think it's an advantage for you though that you're going to be an older team going into this and a lot of these guys are going to be a lot younger?
MIKE WHITE: We hope so. We feel like if your locker room's right, the culture's right, the experienced, older, more bought-in guys are, in my opinion, a little bit better than younger, high-character, bought in guys. I think sometimes experience can backfire on you when you've got some bad chemistry, and you've got a rough culture that you're dealing with because I think older frustrated guys might be harder to deal with than younger frustrated guys who have a light at the end of the tunnel as a sophomore, as a junior, as a senior.
So I guess it all depends on the chemistry of this team. Individually, I really like our character. That doesn't always mean you've got great team character like last year's group. If we do, I think our experience will be a positive force rather than a negative.
We said it when we first got here. We've got to find a way to get older as a staff. That was a challenge to us. You want to try to stay older if you can, and we've done a pretty good job. Luck has come into play, of course, to help us balance our roster and I like the amount of experience right now. We'll see, again, what that sacrifice and buy-in level is with this group as compared to last year's.
Q. Do you have a central message or focus for your team as you go through these workouts and practices leading into the season?
MIKE WHITE: Right now it's more just teaching our system and our philosophy and our terminology to these, recapping what the older guys, and changing just subtle things, adding some things, getting rid of a few things. But for the most part it's been a lot of time teaching the young guys, and having our older guys teach the young guys.
It's such a long season, we really don't hammer our guys on process goals or philosophies, mindsets, anything like that. Really until Thursday. That's when we really start getting into it. Basketball season for us starts Thursday. I know it started for some others a couple days ago or today or tomorrow or what have you.
I feel like, and my staff agrees, it's such a long season, when you start hammering these guys right when school starts, by January I feel like you can wear guys down. So it's been about enjoying the fall, getting better individually, getting to know each other better, enjoying some Gator football, recruiting season, all that type stuff.
But as practice starts, we'll get into what's most important to us, what are our overall five or six defensive keys that are non-negotiables. Offensively start defining some roles, and obviously, we've got to get better on a daily and weekly basis.
Q. We just talked to Cam Newbauer for a bit?
MIKE WHITE: Okay.
Q. How much do you like what he brings to that program?
MIKE WHITE: A bunch of interaction. Cam's everywhere. He's got energy as I'm sure you've noticed. He's got passion. He loves it. He's always popping in the office, and occasionally I'm popping over there. We cross paths out here in the parking lot or in the lobby, what have you, you know there are some similarities there, and we love the game. We're passionate about the Gators, and I know he feels really fortunate to be here, like I do.
I love his energy level. I do. I think that they're going to do some big things.
Q. Last year Canyon Barry was a transfer and he was able to impact. Do you expect Egor as a senior grad transfer to have a similar impact?
MIKE WHITE: Yeah, I do. I think there will be similarities made all year between those guys. There are some natural similarities, but there are also some differences. They're different type players in certain regards. I think he'll have an not ability overall, just generally speaking, to have a similar type impact. When you look at offensive averages and minutes per game, and all those type things, I don't know where they'll stack up at the end of the year.
But I think overall, if you look at Canyon as an arguable starter all year, even though he became the sixth man and won the award, of course, and settled into that role, I expect the same thing from Egor, where, heck, he could be third on our team in minutes. He could be sixth on our team in minutes. I'm not sure. That's up to him and the other guys. They determine who starts, and our guys determine who plays and how minutes are leveed and divvied out, excuse me, and how roles are defined and all those type things.
But I do think he brings, like Canyon, you brought up similarities, experience, obviously, at a different program and that's something we can get into here in a minute. But toughness, a feel, an IQ, an older kid who has been around the block. He's been coached at a high level just like Canyon was coming here and a guy who can score it.
He's a little bit of a different scorer. Canyon's a good shooter, of course, and Canyon, I think, had a deceptive first step and really created a lot of problems for opponents at driving it. Egor can drive it too. Egor's really shooting it well right now. So I think time will tell. But talking about experience, and just in case we get this question, I like our experience.
What's interesting, Denver and I were talking, a little bit like last year, maybe even more so with Jalen and with Egor you can look at it like we're really experienced, but not a lot of experience here. Collectively we come off the Elite Eight run, and that's got to give you some confidence, of course. But that said, not one guy on our roster, I believe, has been to more than one NCAA Tournament. So not trying to downplay it, but just being real with the reality is. I don't think we can hold on too heavily to the fact that we're an incredibly experienced team, because Egor's trying to figure out what we're doing here. Jalen Hudson has some stuff to figure out here. If we do, we're older. And hopefully that will be a positive to Pat's point, as opposed to a negative.
Q. Going back to the impact of last season's run. What are some of the ways you've seen it produce immediate results or open more doors in recruiting?
MIKE WHITE: Probably just with our guys, just more buy-in. A little bit more excitement. That's it. I mean, I don't have a great answer for you. I think when you're recruiting a kid and he really likes everything about the University of Florida he and likes the new staff, and he's a heck of a nice guy. Mike White seems somewhat normal, because I don't know him too well yet, but they haven't really proven.
Now we make the run, and, again, you talk about internal expectations, we go on and on and on. With recruiting, there definitely was a difference. Boy, you guys have it rolling. I'm not sure we have it rolling, but we had a nice run. I think we said it in the spring that ultimately we've probably had more calls returned, probably more texts returned than we did last off-season.
Q. Canyon Barry, Kasey Hill in Europe now. A lot of guys graduating from last season all spread out. Would you like those guys to come back and talk about the experience of last year, all the adversity you went through with the home games and everything? Sort of give your team a pep talk on how to approach the season?
MIKE WHITE: Last year's seniors?
MIKE WHITE: Yeah, absolutely. One of the first things I did other than go to the beach and go surfing after last season was I got a picture of those four seniors kind of bowing to the crowd at the end of the night, which I thought was a special moment. I love those guys. We talked about it ad nauseam last season and at the end of the season. Just a really good group. Those guys are always welcome with open arms. All the guys Coach Donovan, Coach Kruger had, they're all welcome here all the time.
In fact, Michael Frazier was in the gym today shooting. It's great to see him. We've had a bunch of former Gators in and out all the time. Especially you want guys that you've coached around. All four of those guys, I would be absolutely comfortable, I'm not sure they would, all four of them holding court in the locker room and trying to motivate our guys. I think our guys would listen to those guys and respect those guys.
Q. You should see if Frazier has another year of eligibility to shoot or something?
MIKE WHITE: We'll take him.
Q. I know we haven't mentioned Kevarrius Hayes much, but I know you love his leadership, and how has he expanded his game, and how critical will he be early in the season?
MIKE WHITE: He's spacing up more, Kevarrius, he's worked on it. He's been as vocal as anybody on our team. He's been as vocal. We're not going to name a captain. We don't need two or three guys being the only guys that are vocal. We're challenging -- I'd like 13 guys to be vocal. I'd like to have 13 leaders. Kevarrius has really embraced that as much as anybody.
He's always led by example. But with those guys having left and there is more opportunity there to be heard Kevarrius has stepped up in that role. Really pleased with that. His motor is still what it is. You know what you're getting every single day. He hasn't had a bad practice since he enrolled in school from an effort, intensity, toughness standpoint.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports