USA Today Sports
Meeting with the media for the first time since Florida’s 2016-17 season ended nine days ago in the Elite Eight against South Carolina, Gators head coach Mike White touched on a number of questions surrounding his team heading into the offseason.
One of the biggest questions is whether junior forward Devin Robinson and redshirt senior center John Egbunu, who suffered a torn ACL in February, would return to Florida for their final seasons in 2017-18. While Robinson has declared for the draft but hasn’t hired an agent yet, White expects Egbunu to follow a similar path.
“John hasn’t made a decision yet, but I think he’ll probably test the waters and see what type of feedback he gets,” White said. “I don't want to speak for John. I’ll let him have his turn doing that. But I think ultimately that’s probably what he ends up doing and we’ll support him as best as we can support him. We want the best for John. If John wants to really, really come back we’ll welcome him with open arms. But both of these guys have options and decisions to make. So that recruiting landscape, as a staff, we continue to monitor very closely.”
Meanwhile, White said he’d be “somewhat surprised” but excited if Robinson were to return to school for his senior season. Robinson tested the NBA draft waters after last year, but opted to come back for his junior year after doctors discovered a stress fracture in his foot.
“I think that Devin, with this being his second go-around pursuing this thing, I think that it may be difficult for him to not follow through this year. But we'll find out soon enough,” White said. “And of course we want for Devin what Devin wants for Devin. And we're gonna support him anyway we can. Obviously a big recruiting coup this spring would be if Devin re-committed to being a Gator."
White admits that if Egbunu is to pursue the next level and seek feedback on where he stands, the process could be difficult for the 6-foot-11, 255-pound center as he recovers from his injury. UF announced following Egbunu’s torn ACL that he would likely need 10-12 months to recover.
“I feel for him,” White said. “He's in a tough spot where I don't know how much thorough feedback he's going to get. He can't go try out. He can't travel. He can't do individual workouts. He can't do a vertical jump test, you know? And he'd actually grade out really well in all those areas. So, he and Devin both have some tough decisions to make.
“John, if I hadn't said it today just as a reminder, he gets his degree this semester. And so, that it's a matter of do I apply for grad school or do I pursue the professional basketball thing?"
DISCUSSING RETURNING PLAYERS
During his postseason wrap-up press conferences, White also shared his thoughts of what he's looking for out of his returning players during the 2017-18 season.
For guards KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza, who are both projected to start next season, it's leadership and consistency.
"KeVaughn in his first two years, especially with this year’s amount of depth, we’ve been able to get away with every four or five games him having a sub-par game, and he’s going to shoulder a lot more burden," White said. "As I told him, I met with all of our guys next week, he shouldn’t feel pressure from that, he should feel excitement from that. That’s what he wants. That’s what I would hope he wants. I want him to embrace the fact we need him to play well every night.
Kevarrius Hayes will be a key piece in the frontcourt once again next season, but Keith Stone and Gorjok Gak could see bigger roles in 2017-18. As Gak is "just scratching the surface," according to White, Stone will be "depended upon at a much higher level than he was this year."
"That’s what he should he want with the departure of Leon and Barry and who knows what happens with Devin. Keith Stone’s got to make a big jump this offseason," explained White. "I’m glad we saw glimpses of it. I wish we had seen even more glimpses of it because we’re going to need to see a bunch of glimpses next season.”
As for guard Jalen Hudson, a Virginia Tech transfer who sat out this past season, he should play a key role in the rotation next year. While Hudson should bring a spark offensively, White wants him to improve his defense and rebounding.
“He needs to have a really big impact," White said of Hudson. "He will offensively per minute. I can promise you that. But the guy's as talented an offensive player as we have along with KeVaughn Allen. He's that talented offensively. My challenge to Jalen is to defend and rebound at a higher level.
"I'm going to play guys based on how they defend and how they rebound. And if he earns minutes, I know he'll score. I know he'll have some big games for us offensively per minute, depending upon how many minutes that he earns."
USA Today Sports Images
2017 RECRUITING CLASS EVALUATIONS
On Tuesday, White shared his evaluations of three of the four members of Florida’s 2017 recruiting class who have signed already: forwards DeAundrae Ballard and Chase Johnson, and center Isaiah Stokes. Point guard Michael Okauru is currently committed but hasn’t signed his LOI.
-- On Ballard: “DeAundrae Ballard is a 6-6 athlete, high motor guy, can score it, can defend, got some toughness to him, pretty versatile, I’m going to throw a name at you, I shouldn’t do it, but I can’t help myself, he reminds me of this guy because of his intangibles, because of his motor and because of his frame, and dimensions, in terms of what he could be, he’s so far away from this guy of course, you can see a little bit of Sindarius Thornwell in him, some Thornwell in that he can drive it, he can shoot it, he can pass it, he can defend, he can do a lot of things pretty well, doesn’t hang his hat on one thing, good player, really excited about DeAundrae.”
-- On Johnson: “Chase Johnson is a quick-footed, bouncy, versatile athlete that's extending his range. In time, can be more of a pure stretch 4 than what he is right now. He's developing his offensive game. Another guy with good intangibles, another culture guy, good kid. I like his toughness as well. Plays hard, got a good motor.”
-- On Stokes: “First off with Stokes, another thing people are excited about how much of impact he’s going to be, these people who have us in the pre-pre-pre, early-season rankings, they’re excited about the impact that he’s going to have in November and he’s going to be in a cast, he’s had ACL surgery, Isaiah Stokes has a chance to be a really good player here, I’m not sure how much of an impact he’s going to make next year or if he will even play next year, those are decisions that him and Duke Werner will probably end up making next fall. He’s got great skill level, girth, obviously he’s a really, really big kid, highly-skilled guy, big soft hands, very quick feet, going to be a good player.
--White said that he and Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin have had conversations about and extension and the future of the Florida men’s basketball program. “We’ve had a lot of really positive conversations,” White said. “I’m very pleased with the outcomes of our conversations. I’m blessed to have his faith as a guy who inherits me. I’m blessed because he didn’t hire me, but we’re very much aligned in terms of our visions for this program.”
-- White feels Florida’s Elite Eight run helps out on the recruiting trail moving forward: “Does that mean we're going to snag a couple of McDonald's All-Americans this spring? No, but I like the guys we're bringing in. We're going to continue to bring in good players. The reception has continues to warm, you know. The calls and texts are returned a little bit quicker. The people that we've developed really good relationships with over the last couple of years, they're excited for us. Whether or not that means we get a chance to coach their son or their nephew or their player or what have you remains to be seen, but our recruiting base is excited as well."
-- On Tuesday, White also discussed what’s up next for his graduating seniors: “Our guys, hopefully it open up more doors, more opportunities for these guys that are on their way out. I think it will. Kasey Hill hopefully will get more opportunities, more looks, more tryouts, just because of the fact that he didn't get these numbers for a good team. He got these numbers and led a team to the Elite Eight. Canyon Barry is going to Portsmouth any day now (for the NBA pre-draft camp). He's got a great opportunity there. Justin Leon, we get calls on a bunch about potential professional opportunities. I'm not sure that those guys, I'm not sure their resume is quite as attractive if we don't make that run.”
--Following Florida’s Elite Eight loss, White said he got a call from Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski: “Right when I got on the bus after we lost to South Carolina, coach Krzyzewski called as I was sitting on the bus. And actually we talked actually for a while as we rode to the airport. He was very, very supportive and it’s always very educational of course. You always try to soak in whatever he gives you. That was pretty neat.”
PLAYERS CURRENTLY MAKING DECISIONS
11.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 0.8 BPG IN 26.4 MPG
7.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.5 BPG in 22.3 MPG
PLAYERS EXPECTED TO RETURN FOR 2017-18
7.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.3 SPG in 22.2 MPG
14.0 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.3 SPG in 28.6 MPG
2.2 PPG, 0.3 APG in 5.6 MPG
DNP, redshirted due to NCAA transfer rules
3.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG in 12.1 MPG
DNP, redshirted during first season
6.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.7 BPG in 18.3 MPG
1.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG in 5.3 MPG
2017 RECRUITING CLASS
Celebrate Florida's improbable run to the Elite Eight with this commemorative t-shirt. Great for men and women. CLICK HERE
Thank you for reading this Inside the Gators article. To discuss it, please visit the Alligator Alley Forum.