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White still in transition mode at UF

August 27, 2015
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New Florida basketball coach Mike White had a 100-day plan in place when he was hired to replace Billy Donovan.

Now 108 days into his tenure since being hired May 7, White has a better feel for his team and his surroundings. But that doesn’t mean the transition is complete.

“We haven’t lost a game,” White quipped before a speaking engagement at the Clay County Gator Club. “Can this still be the honeymoon, tonight, tomorrow night?

“It’s been really smooth. I’ve been fortunate to inherit coach Donovan’s incredible support staff … and then to have a really good group of guys really helps, guys with character and maturity. We’ve had zero issues in the offseason. It’s been smooth sailing.”

White had a chance to work with his team on the floor for the first time during an open summer workout period in July. All three freshmen (guard KeVaughn Allen, forward Kevarrius Hayes and forward Keith Stone) enrolled early for the summer and took part in the July workouts.

“First impression is (senior forward) Dorian Finney-Smith is very good,” White said. “We expect him to be an all-league player. And we hope that he steps up into more of a leadership role because that’s much needed as well.

“Our freshmen are talented. They’re mute. We’ve got to get them talking a little bit. But they’re wide-eyed right now. They’re having fun. They’re all complementing each other pretty well.”

White spoke before a sold-out group of 180 at the Clay County Club gathering, the third of a four-stop speaking tour throughout the state that will conclude Tuesday night in West Palm Beach. He joked that most of the questions have centered around free-throw shooting, due to the fact Florida finished last in the SEC in free-throw shooting percentage (63.5 percent) last season.

“It’s just an opportunity, more than anything, to meet Gators and develop more and more of those relationships,” White said. “It’s obvious that Gator Nation is proud and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”

Other notes:

— On potential impact of redshirt freshman guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez, who sat out last year due to academic reasons: “He’s anxious to get on the floor,” White said. “What I like most about Brandone, athletically he’s got great ball skills, vision, size and strength for a guy who plays the position. He’s a guy in our league that can play the one (point guard) through the three (small forward). Probably in terms of characteristics, in terms of personality, he’s very, very competitive. He’s a very emotional, competitive kid and I think it will be a positive addition to this team.”

— On being hands on with point guards Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza, “I’ve been very hands on with them,” White said. “I’m not sure more so than other positions but during the season I’ll be as hands on with those guys, and Brandone Francis-Ramirez and KeVaughn Allen, probably our four primary ballhandlers, probably more so than anyone else. It’s a very important position, but I think you can do it by committee as well. I think all four of those guys are capable of handling the ball in pressure situations, key moments throughout the game, finishing halves, finishing games.”

— White said the lines of communication have remained open with former Florida and current Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan, mostly about players on the current roster. “It’s humbling because I know how busy he is,” White said. “But he wants to see those guys do well, Florida do well.”

— On offense being a primary concern heading into the season. “You gain confidence in yourself shooting the basketball when you shoot it well,” White said. “It’s like the chicken and the egg. We’re going to spend a lot of time with skill development, of course. And then it’s our job as a staff to put guys in the best positions possible to be successful. We don’t have those answers right now, but we hope to in three or four months.

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