Florida’s Mike White searches for answers amid slow start
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Mike White has three guys he can count on to bring energy and effort every day. Problem is two of them are freshmen.
Although that might bode well for the future of the program, it’s not how the Gators were expected to play in White’s fourth season. So the coach is scratching his head and searching for answers as Florida (8-5, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) prepares to play at Arkansas (10-3, 1-0) on Wednesday night.
White said Tuesday more lineup changes could be on tap.
He already benched fifth-year senior Jalen Hudson, who led the team in scoring last season but has been an enigma in his final go-round.
Fellow senior KeVaughn Allen and/or junior Keith Stone could be next.
Allen is averaging a career-worst 10.3 points and has one free throw in the last three games. The shy and soft-spoken guard didn’t take a single shot in the final 19-plus minutes of a 71-69 loss to South Carolina last week.
“I can’t explain it,” White said. “We all see it. You see it. I see it. His teammates see it. When he’s playing aggressive and confident, he’s really good and we’re much better for it. I don’t know how to channel it.”
White has been trying and failing for years to get through to Allen, so it might be time to give someone else a chance.
Stone has been equally disappointing. He’s averaging 7.0 points and 4.6 rebounds. He’s one of the team’s best 3-point shooters, but one of the worst from the free-throw line. He also has 21 turnovers to go with just seven assists while coming up short on the defensive end.
“I know what I’m getting from a few guys,” White said. “And there’s a couple others that are really competitive, and if they make a shot, now all of a sudden they might start playing with some confidence and they might guard at a high level — if they make a shot. Then there’s a couple others if the wind’s blowing the right way, the air conditioning’s blowing the right way, they might play with their juices flowing.
“You just don’t know. And there’s a couple that they might get off to a good start and then if I yank ’em for making a mistake or so and so doesn’t pass them the ball, their intensity level’s going to (dip). And that’s why we are who we are.”
It’s why the Gators handed Butler its worst loss since 1994 one weekend and then squandered a 14-point lead against struggling South Carolina the next.
And why White has no idea what to expect from most of his team against the Razorbacks.
Senior center Kevarrius Hayes and freshmen guards Andrew Nembhard and Noah Locke have been bright spots for Florida, which hasn’t started 0-2 in league play since 2010. They also are the only three White can count on right now.
“Beyond that, it’s a crapshoot,” White said. “You got three guys that perform at a championship level every day — defensively, offensively, from an intensity standpoint, a focus standpoint, how they compete in practice and games, whether they’re making shots or missing shots.
“And when you got seven or eight or nine of those guys, you’ve got a pretty good team. We’ve got upperclassmen that aren’t in that category and they’re told every day. ... It’s an inconsistency with this team. It’s a begging of a certain level of competitiveness and intensity. If you have to beg for it, then you’re not going to get it consistently. It has to come from within.”