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Florida Gators head basketball coach Mike White held court on Monday to discuss a variety of topics heading into the offseason.
At the top of the list is Florida’s roster entering the 2016-17 campaign and how the Gators can improve after missing the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.
Two-and-done? White announced Monday that sophomore forward Devin Robinson is giving consideration to entering his name in the 2016 NBA Draft. With new NCAA rules in place that make such a decision a low-risk move for a player, Robinson could theoretically dip his toe in draft, receive evaluations from scouts and return to school … as long as he does not hire an agent.
“I like the flexibility [that the new rule] it gives these young men. I think that better decisions will be made because of it,” White said, noting that he and Robinson would have a more in-depth conversation about the player’s situation this week. “I don’t blame him [for testing the waters],” White continued. “Devin’s got a very high ceiling. He’s very talented. … With the new rule, I think most guys at this level are at least somewhat considering it. I don’t know whether he declares or not, but I think we’ll find out soon.”
White did make it clear, though, that he hopes Robinson returns to the Gators next season. Robinson averaged 9.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season, hitting 45.8 percent of his field goals and 34 percent of his threes, but he has a long way to go to be pro-ready and could make some major strides with one more year in the college ranks.
“We certainly would like to see Devin come back,” White said. “If it’s his time and [leaving] is in his best interest, then we’ll fully support him. But personally, I’d like to continue coaching him. I think he’s got such a high ceiling, and I thought he made a very big jump this year. I think he could make an equally as big – if not bigger – jump next year.”
One more year? Redshirt senior F Alex Murphy has barely played in two seasons with Florida, sitting out half of the 2014-15 campaign as a mid-year transfer and then getting injured at the start of the 2015-16 season. As such, hope is that Murphy will receive an NCAA waiver for an extra season of eligibility, but as of now, that has simply not come in just yet. “We’re just kind of in a holding pattern right now,” White explained. He’s working out with the team. Fingers are crossed for him. He’s trying. … He’s walking around antsy not knowing what the next step is for him.”
No additional attrition: As it stands, White does not expect the Gators to lose any additional players outside of redshirt junior guard/forward DeVon Walker (transfer), redshirt senior F Dorian Finney-Smith (graduation), Murphy (if not granted a waiver) and Robinson (should he declare for an stay in the NBA Draft). “I think we’re pretty set and comfortable with where we’re at, but expectations have been communicated [to players]. Off the floor and on the floor, we’ve got to get better. We weren’t good enough this year. Things could change. Communication goes two ways.”
Schedule still coming together: As OnlyGators.com has reported on numerous occasions, UF is still in the process of finalizing its 2016-17 schedule, which will include a barnstorming tour of the state of Florida in lieu of nonconference home games during the late fall and early winter. The Gators have already scheduled a set of games in Orlando and one in South Florida but may add more dates in the lower half of the state and are also looking at options in Tampa and Jacksonville.
Improvements were made in the NIT: It was obvious that the Gators had a renewed sense of energy and purpose when the NIT came around. Credit to White for getting his team motivated for the “secondary” tournament. Perhaps more importantly was the emergence of junior point guard Kasey Hill and freshman center Kevarrius Hayes, who both flashed late in the season and could certainly build on those improvements heading into next year.
“I thought [Hill] made a big jump in his finishing ability late in this season,” White explained. “Kasey took advantage of some of that player development, some of that skill development, and really finished at a high level late in the season. … His floater game is a lot better than it was early in the season. It’s something he knows he needs to continue to work on because he has such a unique ability to get in the paint at will. … His free throw percentage and his three-point percentage will be what we focus on for the most part in this off-season. He understands that, he’s open to trying different things with his techniques. And I expect Kasey to figure those out and have a great senior year.”
White believes Florida got “a lot” from the NIT experience, and he noted that he was pleased with his team’s mentality throughout the postseason. “I thought we played well in the SEC Tournament [just] not quite well enough to knock off the one-seed. We played really hard,” he said. “It’s never a success at the University of Florida if you don’t go to the NCAA Tournament, but I feel like we’ve laid a foundation.”
Notes and quotes:
On the development of redshirt sophomore C John Egbunu, who is out of action indefinitely while recovering from thumb surgery: “With John’s late development and with this only being his second year of playing Division I [basketball], this offseason is really important for him and for this team, this program. It’s going to be a while before he is back on the floor at full speed, but I think he understands that he’s got a chance to be one of the better big guys in this league and have a really big junior year. And that’s certainly our expectation of him.”
On freshman G KeVaughn Allen stepping up in his second season: “In our [post-season] meeting, a big focus was on his wind and on his motor because, as big as the target was that was on his back as a freshman, it will become bigger and bigger. He’s got to be a guy that just becomes so mentally tough, and he’s got to get in such unbelievable shape that changing defenses and different defenders and the focal point that he is doesn’t slow him down. … He’s a guy who we’re going to rely upon heavily to be possibly our first option – a lot of nights at least – and some nights our second option. He’s a guy who’s got a chance to be a great scorer here at Florida.”
On freshman G Keith Stone, who sat out this season and took a redshirt: “I’m really excited about Keith Stone. … He had a great sit-out year. Does that mean for Keith that he should have unreal expectations and he’s going to come in and get 25 [points] a game and be the best player in the world? Absolutely not. He’s going to be a freshman. … He’s going to have to go through a learning curve. … Is he talented? Yes. Does he love the gym? Absolutely, more than any guy I know. He lives in the gym. Really skilled, can really score. He’s competitive. He’s a great kid. He’s really changed his body. … We expect big things out of him. I expect him to have a big freshman year. … Anything on top of a good freshman year would be bonus. He should have a really good career.”