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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Mike White still experimenting with his starting five

Florida head coach Mike White is still working on UF’s chemistry before Miss State matchup

<p>Mike White has coached Florida men&#x27;s basketball since 2015, leading the Gators to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons.</p>

Mike White has coached Florida men's basketball since 2015, leading the Gators to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons.

When Florida basketball toppled South Carolina on the road, 71-63, head coach Mike White found good vibrations among his new starting five. Forward Colin Castleton relentlessly blocked a season-high eight shots, and freshman Kowacie Reeves made his second start of the season. The guard impressed, scoring 14 points and shooting 66.7% in 23 minutes.

Regardless of the victory, White still wants to mix and match his best available chemicals to perfect a formula for his starting five.

Since the Dec. 18 victory against South Florida, White has shuffled the starters in five of the last six games. Castleton, guard Brandon McKissic, and forward Anthony Duruji have remained the constants.

White says he arranges his roster by whoever leaves a prominent mark in practice and two ball handlers obtained the coach’s attention in January.

Graduate guard Phlandrous Fleming Jr. has made six starts this season, but calls to be on the floor for the opening tip vanished after COVID-19 struck the basketball program, postponing  the Ole Miss game. 

According to White, Fleming missed a few practices and his technique started to fall behind, causing a demotion.

The Athens, Georgia, native caught White’s eye once again and is expected to be in the starting five against Miss State Wednesday. White praised Fleming for how he “values the ball, makes good decisions, guards at a high level and controls his emotions. (Fleming’s) going to continue to earn more minutes.”

The most recent addition is Reeves who eagerly, but humbly, awaited his starting call. Now that the freshman has shown the ability to prosper as a starter, White has become exuberant for Reeves and the Gators’ outlook moving forward.

“(Reeves) has got a ways to go,” White said. “His future is really bright. If he continues to work and remains with his level of humility, which will be shocking if he doesn't because he's about as consistent, despite being the youngest.”

The Macon, Georgia, native is averaging 3.8 points and 1.2 rebounds per contest this season, but those numbers can only trend upwards as his role continues to increase. 

“He just hasn't had a day - not one time - since he's been here where he seems off, distant, not engaged or not working hard,” White continued. “He's in the gym probably more than anyone on the team. He deserves the success that he's getting individually but it's not even that to him, he's probably more excited about the fact we won and played well.”

Reeves and Fleming are both expected on the floor when Wednesday night’s opening tip is thrown up, but they haven’t shined enough just yet for White to commit to the athletes full-time.

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“Winning should be most important to us,” White said. “I'm always gonna play and start guys based on practice production and gains. I don't care who starts, I really don't care who plays, I just want the Gators to get better.”

Florida seeks its second-consecutive win during a home battle against the unranked Mississippi State Bulldogs. Tip-off from the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is set for 6:30 and will be broadcast on SEC Network.

Contact Jesse Richardson at jrichardson@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352.

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