UF coach Mike White walked into Tuesday’s media day press conference with the same cool, crisp persona that he usually sports.
He stood at the podium and corralled questions from every region of the room.
One of the first ones was an obvious, yet important one.
It had to do with his team’s lofty preseason expectations that has the entire college basketball world buzzing.
“Yeah, I mean, we’ve got a ton of work to do,” White admitted. “I don’t blame whoever is out there saying we’ve got a chance to be pretty good … we’ve got a pretty good roster. It’s a good problem to have. That said, we haven’t even been through a practice yet.”
Right there. That’s the dilemma.
Nine new players on a 14-man roster.
It’s one thing to have a bunch of good individual pieces, but the real question is: How well can those pieces gel before Florida’s season opener against North Florida on Nov. 5?
According to White, maturity and high character — a couple key attributes that make a good leader — are in abundance with this group.
“I don’t know what our leadership is going to be, but I think we have more potential leaders on this team than any team that I’ve coached,” White said. “I think we have four, five, six, maybe seven guys that have a chance to lead in some capacity.”
To me, that’s huge.
A lot of talent and a lot of potential leaders. That’s a formula for an elite basketball team.
After media day ended, and the reporters and TV crews had scattered, the consensus was that the players on this team have a ton of notable personalities with maturity beyond their freshman and sophomore classifications.
Freshmen Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis, as well as sophomore Andrew Nembhard, especially stood out.
“Tre is — he’s really talented with the ball,” White said. “He’s always been a prolific scorer at that level. I’ll tell you, he’s been an awesome kid, getting extra workouts, always in the gym. He’s been a breath of fresh air to be around.”
White mentioned that Nembhard not only wants that leadership role, he expects it.
Pair those players with a veteran like Kerry Blackshear Jr., and the ingredients are there.
“He’s so unselfish,” White said of Blackshear Jr. “A couple of these other guys we’ve got to rein in a little bit, but I don’t have that worry with him. He wants Florida to win.”
If his teammates take on the attitude that Blackshear Jr. has portrayed so far, the inexperience won’t matter. This team will succeed. This team will adhere to those expectations.
“I’ve just challenged these guys,” White said, regarding his team’s preseason love. “You’ve heard it a million times, from everyone, and me included, let’s just get better today. It’ll all work out in the end.”
In just over a month, the words will finally go mute, and the actions will be pushed to the forefront.
We’ll see then how much this team has truly gelled.
Follow Evan Lepak on Twitter @evanmplepak. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coach Mike White has made three-straight NCAA Tournaments. With the highest-rated recruiting class he signed at UF, expectations are high.