Increased comfort level expected in Year 2 of Mike White era at Florida
GAINESVILLE — It’s Year 2.
Florida men’s basketball coach Mike White’s first year here went about as well as could be expected. The Gators improved by five wins from former coach Billy Donovan’s last season. They didn’t make the NCAA Tournament but did reach the NIT quarterfinals, losing to George Washington.
But now White has one more year of experience in Gainesville.
“You have a better sense as to who you have, who you’re working with, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what your team’s strengths and weaknesses are,” White said at the Gators’ media day Thursday.
But his players have also had the opportunity to learn more about the man who is commanding the Gators in the post-Donovan era.
“This year now we know what to expect from him, what to expect from some of the guys that have been here last year so we are getting on the same page,” junior forward Devin Robinson said. “We started off a little bit last year at the end of the year and we just keep picking it up from last year, just trying to keep going forward with that.”
Simplicity: Basketball, especially Division I-A basketball, can be hard. The game moves at 1,000 mph. The defenses are more complex. The offenses are more sophisticated. The players are more skilled, and more athletic.
So when you are a freshman, or a team learning under a new coach, it can be hard to pick up on all of it. That is why White is hoping to simplify the game for his players.
“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,” White said. “So that's always a topic of discussion probably in most sports for coaches.”
If the offensive or defensive system is too complicated, players might do too much thinking and react slower. Florida’s offense is a motion one, which requires constant movement but also works best when reading the defense.
But having a simpler offensive system can be a boost to the freshmen and new additions on the team. Especially in cutting back on mistakes like turnovers.
“I felt like when we simplified it, specifically offensively late in the year, we were at our best,” White said. “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.”
New addition: Of the new additions, one of the most anticipated ones is graduate student transfer Canyon Barry. Barry is the son of Rick Barry, one of the greatest shooters in NBA history.
Canyon comes to Florida from the College of Charleston, where he shot 37 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range. His role and game-by-game production will vary.
“I don't know whether Canyon's going to play 20 minutes a game or 35 minutes a game,” White said. “And a lot of that will just depend on Canyon and his production and how well we play when he's out on the floor and how well other guys are playing.”
Barry is a 6-foot-6 guard, and even though he may not play a lot and his role isn’t defined, he adds more depth at his position. But first he has to adjust to a new system, a new coach and a new conference.
“It’s an interesting situation coming in as a fifth year,” Barry said. “We had a couple of them at Charleston but when you spend so much time with all the guys you just click in, find your rhythm and learn to appreciate each other’s differences.”
One of the many positives he brings is his experience and knowledge of the game, but he has also has a very diverse skillset.
“He's very capable of scoring the ball, but I think he's underrated in other areas,” White said. “He's a great communicator. He's always talking. He's a quick thinker. He's a very good passer.”
Back again: Devin Robinson hoped to hear his name in the NBA draft this past summer. The 6-foot-8 junior forward was considered as a probable late second-round pick.
But a stress fracture in his left foot derailed his dream for one more year. Robinson had surgery in April, then he was immobilized until late August.
Because of his injury, Robinson withdrew his name for consideration in the draft and opted to return to Florida.
“Having to come back, that was kind of tough for me,” Robinson said, “to transfer my mind back to playing another year of college.”
But the other tough part was waiting. He couldn’t walk until August. So while his teammates were practicing and running drills, Robinson could only dribble a ball or practice form shooting from a chair. But one thing Robinson did do that he felt helped him improve was watching film.
He saw what mistakes he was making. He noticed little details on the offensive end that he could improve. He saw times when he didn’t capitalize on opportunities. So while Robinson wasn’t able to grow much physically, he thinks he grew mentally.
“I feel like it got my game better,” Robinson said. “I learned more about the game, watching more film, but I think I grew as a player.”