Saturday, May 26, 2018
Sports

Okaro White, Florida State Seminoles ready for Florida Gators

TALLAHASSEE

Okaro White is 6 feet 8, athletic and defends well. To some, he's a small forward, agile and able to drive or shoot from the outside. To others, he's a power forward, quick in the low post and with moves to get easy baskets inside.

The former Clearwater High standout sees the versatility of his game and embraces the fact that he's a lot of both.

"I just call myself a forward without any name in front of it right now," White said. "Eventually, if I'm allowed to take that next step to the NBA, I might be a 3 (small forward). But I still might be a 4 (power forward). It doesn't matter. Wherever I can be used and have the best opportunity to produce for my team."

White has been asked to start and contribute more in his junior season at Florida State. And he is producing.

He is making 60 percent of his shots, averaging 13.4 points (second on the team) and 5.3 rebounds (third). What's remarkable is that he's playing just four minutes more per game but has raised his scoring average 5.7 points.

"I think he's been playing very good," FSU assistant coach Corey Williams said. "His level of play has increased. He continues to give us the effort that we thought he could give when we recruited him. We knew it would get to this point."

White is at this point because of his hard work over the summer. After starting 25 of 69 games in his first two seasons, White knew he would be counted on after FSU lost six seniors from a team that won the ACC tournament.

So White spent more time than ever at FSU's basketball training complex this offseason, taking 400-450 shots per workout. And he has been more consistent after shooting 47 percent from the floor last season.

His improvement has helped an FSU team that has struggled after seeing half of its roster turn over. The Seminoles (4-3) have lost consecutive games, at home to Minnesota and Mercer, going into tonight's showdown in Tallahassee with No. 6 Florida.

White has been a bright spot, but he realizes there is plenty left for him to improve, including his rebounding skills. He's just 205 pounds, so he's often battling inside for rebounds against bigger forwards.

White spent much of the offseason working out with two of FSU's biggest players — Terrance Shannon (6-8, 240) and Michael Ojo (7-1, 290). Though his rebound totals are up slightly, it has been a challenge.

"I never realized how tough rebounding was," White said. "It's just something you have to have a knack for, especially on the offensive rebounding side. You can't stop on first contact. … Definitely lacking in the rebounding aspect, and I'm trying to get back to that."

While his rebounding is a work in progress, there is no doubting his improved shooting. White has hit double figures in all but one game this season, and he had a combined 33 points in wins over BYU and St. Joseph's as the Seminoles won the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament in Brooklyn in November.

He has shown his post moves but also a more consistent jumper, and White has already made seven 3-pointers after hitting 11 all of last season.

"I think Okaro has improved all of his skills," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "He's really, really worked hard."

White says his game compares to former FSU standout Al Thornton, another versatile forward who spent four seasons in the NBA and is now playing in China.

"He sees me when he sees himself," White said. "He says I have a better offensive skill set than he did."

And White is just a junior with plenty of room to grow. FSU's coaches love his defensive skills and say they are comfortable having him defend almost anyone, from point guards to power forwards. And he now has the outside shooting accuracy to complement his post moves.

"I think that's a big asset for him because he's not one-dimensional," Williams said. "You have a 4-man that can play a little 3, shoot from the perimeter, can post you up or use his quickness. I think that makes it difficult for people to guard. As he gets stronger, understands the game a little bit clearer, he has made leaps and jumps."

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