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Florida to start season with a stacked roster

September 25, 2019

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WCC: Mike White Media Day Q&A Transcript

Basketball Media Day Player Q&As


Gators men’s basketball coach Mike White walked into Tuesday’s media day as calm, cool and collected as ever, and with good reason. 

He is entering this season with the most talented roster from top to bottom that he has had since taking over the program three years ago. 

The additions of five-star freshmen, Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear, who averaged 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game last season with Virginia Tech have led to experts and analysts rating this year’s team as one of the best in the nation—with Final Four predictions in place. 

Regardless of the chatter, White along with the rest of the team remained unfazed.

“I don't blame whoever is out there saying we've got a chance to be pretty good or so and so ranking has this in the preseason,” said White. “It is what it is; we've got a pretty good roster. It's a good problem to have. That said, we haven't even been through a practice yet. We have no idea who's going to start, who's going to score for us, who's going to be our best defensive player.”

White did what he could to temper expectations, citing the nine new additions to the roster as the primary factor. 

But this isn’t White’s first experience returning five players from a possible 14. He did the same during his last season coaching Louisiana Tech and ended the season 27-9, losing in the quarterfinals of the NIT. 

That’s not to say White is not confident in the intangibles his players possess. Sophomores Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson have exhibited the leadership and maturity to guide this team, according to White. 

Those players have reverberated those sentiments. 

“I just answer any questions they have from me asking to be as open as they want with me and I think just work as hard as possible,” Nembhard said. 

Nembhard, an Ontario native, spent the latter part of this summer competing with Team Canada during FIBA World Championship in Beijing. He’s drawing upon the experience he gained to build off a freshman campaign where he averaged 8.0 points, 5.4 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game while starting all 36 games played. 

“I think it's made me more mature made me a much smarter player,” Nembhard said. 

On the podium, White gushed over Nembhard’s Team Canada experience. 

“I think it has helped him as a player. He came back immediately, and you could see some strength, some confidence,” White said. “I think he was champing at the bit to get back here. He was really competitive, a little bit chippy. I think eager to show his younger teammates that he's a pretty good player. So we're happy to have him back.”

Locke, one of three freshmen to start at Florida last season—and part of the first trio to do so since 1999—is taking a hands-off approach to leading the freshmen during their first few practices. A period White describes as “a rude awakening.” 

“I mean, you can tell them how they can try and try to like, you know, get into their head and prepare for something like that. But, I mean, they really have to just see it for themselves and be able to know,” Locke said. “I mean, I can say all I want, but that’s how I was. I mean, I had to experience it.”

Having played in White’s system the previous year, Locke considers his greatest value as a leader to be a middleman between White and the newcomers. 

“I know exactly what he wants, I know what it takes to win on this level. And I just try to express those things to them as we go on throughout the season,” Locke said. “I feel like they will learn a lot by themselves by just playing. And I'm just trying to make sure that they stay on top of certain things, you know, that we need to win.” 

What excites White most, is the versatility he is afforded entering the season. 

During the conference, he expressed a “lack of weaknesses” when surveying the roster. 

Having relied heavily on small-ball lineups in the past, White is looking to take advantage of the size the team has and shifting the paradigm to larger rotations when the situation demands it. 

It wouldn’t be surprising if from one game to the next, the team features a starting rotation of four guards followed by a shift to two starting centers. 

But with all the conversation regarding how the sophomores can lead the team this season, the attention naturally gravitated towards how Mann’s diverse skillset can diversify White’s offense. 

White, was elated when talking about the future Tre Mann has on his team. 

“Tre is—he's really talented with the ball. He can score it, he can pass it. He became a developing point guard playmaking passer late in his high school career, much better than early on when—he's always been a prolific scorer at that level,” White said. “He's been an awesome kid, getting extra workouts, always in the gym. He's been a breath of fresh air to be around, and I think he can play a couple of different positions.”

Mann, aware of his prowess with the ball in his hands, has not shied away from the expectations the coaching staff has of him—instilling a high level of confidence in the 18-year-old. 

“When I came, [the] coaches told me that’s what they wanted me to do. They wanted me to take those tough shots and make those tough shots,” Mann said. “They just add a little more confidence to me.”

With their first official practice set for Friday, that’s where the tone will be set for the upcoming season. 

It’s White’s official challenge to each of his players. To get acclimated to the tough schedule early-on in order to avoid an early-season hangover. 

“I’ve just challenged these guys,” White said. “You’ve heard it a million times, from everyone, and me included, let’s just get better today. It’ll all work out in the end.”


Florida Gators vs. Tennessee VolunteersBranded 2019 Football Score T-Shirt - Royal
Florida Gators vs. Tennessee VolunteersBranded 2019 Football Score T-Shirt - Royal

Florida to start season with a stacked roster

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