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Florida Basketball

White wants team to establish an identity

October 31, 2019

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With an abundance of talent entering this season, coinciding with last year’s freshmen trio returning, there’s just cause to this year’s Florida team being ranked sixth nationally -- the second-highest preseason ranking in the program’s history. 

After an 89-71 win in an exhibition matchup against Lynn University, the countdown is underway for their Nov. 5 home opener against the North Florida Ospreys, head coach Mike White remains reserved when discussing the team’s preparedness. 

“You got to check yourself as a staff this early on, especially with how many young guys we’re playing, and just remind yourself that it’s a long process,” White said during Thursday’s media availability. 

With nine new players, White’s central focus has been establishing the team’s identity while taming thoughts regarding their potential. With such turnover comes other concerns as well, as White had to work quickly to ingrain the team’s stylistic approach to each of the new faces.

“No, not where we need to be in terms of rebounding the basketball, overall accountability defensively. The buy-in is pretty good, not great, defensively,” White said. “I think that’s kind of typical for such a young team. This is my first go-around with a team this young, of course, so I’m learning as we go as well.” 

But there’s much the fifth-year Florida head coach has enjoyed of the team early this season. 

In the exhibition against the Fighting Knights, the team’s offense was symphonic. Graduate transfer forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. ended the contest with a double-double of 16 points and ten rebounds. Returning point guard Andrew Nembhard led the team with 17 points.

Together, the team shot 52 percent from the field. 

“I thought we had individual performances that were pretty good to good by guys like Andrew Nembhard, KJ Blackshear, Omar Payne was really good. Tre Mann was good,” White said. “I like the way we shared the basketball. I thought the ball moved pretty well for most of the game. I don’t think guys were hunting shots, which is something you definitely don’t want to see for the first time in front of fans. So the unselfishness I liked.”

Additionally, White enjoyed the production of what could be his go-to starting five consisting of Nembhard, Mann, Noah Locke, Blackshear and Johnson. 

Combined, they scored 67 points on 51 percent shooting. 

Part of the rotation’s success is attributed to the time spent during practice, but a forgotten piece is the culture that has developed within the locker room that White has not ignored. 

“We’ve got some strong personalities, and I think that’s a good thing,” White said earlier this month. “These guys are really close, especially for this early on with this many new guys, it’s actually been pretty surprising.”

Now with the exhibition behind them, White’s focus is capitalizing on a three-game, home-opening stretch against the Ospreys, Florida State and Townson. 

"Yeah, thank God we've got the few at home because we've got a tough schedule. I mean every year, we've got, it becomes very hard really, really quickly. So it'll be nice if we can capitalize,” White said.

White wants team to establish an identity

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