What would you do when two of your top-three scorers and your starting center graduate, and there are no clear replacements for them?
This is the dilemma Florida men’s basketball coach Mike White faces in the offseason after No. 10-seed UF was bounced in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament by No. 2-seed Michigan.
It won’t be easy.
Guards KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson averaged 11.8 and 9.3 points per game, respectively. Center Kevarrius Hayes finished his career second on the all-time UF blocks list and was the main option for the team under the basket.
Hayes also found his offensive rhythm late into the season. He averaged 13 points per game in his last six contests.
Allen, Hudson and Hayes will be tough to replace, but that isn’t the only question surrounding the Gators. The end of the season left a lot of uncertainty for the future, and it will certainly leave fans guessing on what’s coming next.
Who’s going to step up and lead?
There were usually nine players at the beginning of the season who received significant playing time: Allen, Hudson, Hayes, guards Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke, Deaundrae Ballard and Mike Okauru, and forwards Keyontae Johnson and Keith Stone.
Then, Stone tore his ACL, Hudson saw his minutes reduced because his shots weren’t falling — and he wasn’t playing good defense — and Locke was playing injured.
That leaves very little in terms of veteran leadership. Stone and center Gorjok Gak will be the only seniors next season, but it’s unknown when Stone will be back on the court, and Gak hasn’t panned out during his time at UF.
Gak also has the possibility of being a redshirt junior if he petitions for a medical one because he didn’t play this year.
Next come the juniors. Okauru played backup to Nembhard, and Ballard rarely saw the court for more than 10 minutes toward the end of the 2018-19 campaign. Forwards Dontay Bassett and Isaiah Stokes can fill the void left by Hayes, but with the addition of incoming 6-foot-9 freshman forward Omar Payne, Bassett might be staying in the backup role.
All of Florida’s current freshmen, Nembhard, Locke and Johnson, will continue to stay in the starting lineup or be the first off the bench.
Only time will tell as to who will step up in the absence of UF’s seniors.
What happens if the Gators have another season like 2018-19?
White just finished his fourth season at the helm and already some fans are calling for him to be put on the hot seat.
During that span, White led the Gators to an Elite Eight appearance, three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and four straight 20-win seasons. At the same time, his teams haven’t shown vast improvement.
It took UF beating LSU in the SEC Tournament for it to make March Madness. It took beating Nevada in the First Round for Florida to reach 20 wins. And in back-to-back seasons, the Gators were eliminated during the first weekend of the tournament.
Does Mike White deserve to be in danger of losing his job? It depends on who you ask. But next season will be important for the future of the program.
The Gators are looking at a young starting lineup, especially with five-star recruits Scottie Lewis (ranked 12th nationally) and Tre Mann (26th) coming next year.
Other questions that need answers
How will Florida do now that the SEC is a stronger basketball conference?
Can UF overcome not having a true center for the third-straight season?
Can Locke regain his confidence from beyond the arc?
Will White use up that final scholarship slot to bring in a transfer?
We won’t know until next season, but we do know these issues will need to be addressed if the Gators want any shot at a successful campaign.
Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at [email protected].