1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Gators

Florida Gators’ Mike White happy to have ‘a good problem’

The expectations are high for his No. 6-ranked team, and the basketball coach wouldn’t have it any other way.
Florida basketball coach Mike White makes a point during the SEC basketball media day on Oct. 16, 2019, in Birmingham, Ala. [BUTCH DILL  |  AP]
Florida basketball coach Mike White makes a point during the SEC basketball media day on Oct. 16, 2019, in Birmingham, Ala. [BUTCH DILL | AP]
Published Oct. 25

GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Mike White was speaking at a booster club in Melbourne in late June when his cellphone started vibrating.

White had been expecting the call, so he knew who was on the other end. It was Kerry Blackshear Jr., one of the most coveted transfer players in college basketball.

White excused himself, stepped into an empty corner of the ballroom and anxiously answered.

“He told me, ‘I’ve got bad news for you, coach,’ ” White recalled. “I was crushed. Crushed! But I knew I needed to get back to the event, so I couldn’t let myself go there.”

He told Blackshear he would call him back, but just as he started to hang up, his curiosity took over.

“Where did you end up choosing to go?” White asked.

“I’ve decided that I’m going to go to University of Florida,” Blackshear responded with a chuckle, letting White know he had been joking with him.

“I’m still a little bit mad at him for it,” White said.

White got over it pretty quickly, and although he might never forget the gut-wrenching conversation, it could end up being the defining point of Florida’s season.

The Gators, ranked No. 6 in the preseason, landed the Virginia Tech standout, paired him with three returning starters and a top-10 recruiting class, and instantly made themselves championship contenders.

They head into the season with the kind of expectations that haven’t been felt in Gainesville since 2006-07, when roommates Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green returned for their junior year and led Florida to a second straight national title.

“I don’t blame whoever is out there saying we’ve got a chance to be pretty good,” White said. “We’ve got a pretty good roster. It’s a good problem to have.”

The 6-foot-10 Blackshear averaged 14.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists last season while shooting 51 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from 3-point range. He helped the Hokies reach the Sweet 16, where he finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and two blocks in a two-point loss to top-seeded Duke. Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams left for Texas A&M a few days later, and Blackshear eventually followed him out the door.

He chose Florida over Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas A&M, partly so he could be close to home (Orlando) and mostly because of the team White has assembled.

Point guard Andrew Nembhard, shooting guard Andrew Locke and forward Keyontae Johnson return, and high school All-Americans Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann give Florida as much versatility and depth as it has had since those back-to-back title teams.

“In my head, we can do a lot with this,” Lewis said. “We can really do something. We can really be successful.”

White agrees, reluctantly embracing the outside expectations.

“I really like us on paper,” he said.

Some other things to know about the 2019-20 season:

ROSTER OVERHAUL: White made sweeping changes to his roster after the team’s third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, jettisoning Keith Stone, Deaundrae Ballard, Mike Okauru and Isaiah Stokes. Forward Chase Johnson also left early last season, and seniors KeVaughn Allen, Jalen Hudson and Kevarrius Hayes graduated.

Now, the Gators have nine newcomers. The group includes six freshmen: Lewis, Mann, guard Ques Glover, big men Omar Payne and Jason Jitoboh and walk-on Alex Klatsky.

“To play with this talent, with this coaching staff, at this school, with the schedule we (have), this is what you hope for,” Nembhard said. “It’s all in front of us. It’s up to us to make the most of it.”

THE GRADUATES: White clearly likes the NCAA’s graduate transfer rules. The fifth-year Florida coach has benefited greatly from them in recent years, adding guards Canyon Barry (2016-17) and Egor Koulechov (2017-18) before Blackshear.

“Grad Transfer U. Bring them on,” White said. “Put that out there. See who’s available in the spring.”

Barry averaged 11.4 points at UF after transferring from College of Charleston, and Koulechov averaged 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds after leaving Rice.

DAUNTING SCHEDULE: Florida opens the season Nov. 5 against North Florida. The team’s nonconference schedule also includes Florida State, UConn, St. Joseph’s, Butler, Providence and Baylor. Only six of the Gators’ 13 nonconference games will be played in Gainesville. “We’ve got a ridiculous schedule,” White said. “We play (six) home games in the nonconference, which is unheard of at our level. Might be the only high major team in the country doing that.”


  1. Running back DeeJay Dallas (13) and Miami will spend bowl season in Shreveport, La., for the Independence Bowl. [MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP]
    Starting Dec. 20, there is almost a full month of couch potato fun ahead if you love college football.
  2. Florida coach Dan Mullen has led the Gators to consecutive New Year's Six bowl appearances. [JEFF ROBERSON  |  AP]
    This will be UF’s first Orange appearance since Steve Spurrier’s final game
  3. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron celebrates after the Southeastern Conference championship against Georgia on in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. [JOHN AMIS  |  AP]
    LSU slides up to No. 1 in the final rankings of the season.
  4. Florida guard Ques Glover tries to drive on Butler forward Bryce Golden during the first half in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. [MICHAEL CONROY  |  AP]
    UF sees its four-game winning streak come to an end on the road.
  5. Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin celebrates his team's final touchdown in its victory over UAB in the Conference USA championship game on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Boca Raton. [MIKE STOCKER  |  AP]
    After leading the Owls to victory in the Conference USA title game on Saturday, the coach announces he’s leaving for the Rebels.
  6. Florida Gators defensive back CJ Henderson wags his finger after breaking up a pass during a game against Miami in August at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Henderson is forgoing his senior season, entering the NFL draft and skipping the team’s bowl game. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Henderson’s elite speed could help his draft stock. His interview skills could be another story.
  7. In this 2007 file photo, coach Billy Donovan cuts down the net after Florida defeated South Carolina to win at least a share of the SEC regular-season championship. [BRIAN CASSELLA  |  St. Petersburg Times]
    The formal introduction will take place on Feb. 15.
  8. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron and the Tigers face Georgia in the SEC Championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday in Atlanta. [MATTHEW HINTON  |  AP]
    Here are our picks for this week’s conference championships.
  9. Florida's Kerry Blackshear drives on Xavier's Jason Carter during the second half of the Charleston Classic title game on Nov. 24, 2019, in Charleston, S.C. [MIC SMITH  |  AP]
    UF goes on the road Saturday in hopes of extending its four-game winning streak, but it faces a tough test in Indianapolis.
  10. Memphis head coach Mike Norvell runs onto the field during the first half of an NCAA college football game against USF on Nov. 23. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    Mike Norvell and Jim McElwain are coaches to watch this weekend. And who should the Florida Gators want to win?