In the famed Disney movie “Cars,” Lightning McQueen repeats his personal mantra while awaiting the movie’s first race: “I am speed.”
Gators coach Mike White didn’t quote the legendary line verbatim when speaking to the media on Friday, but he spared no time cutting to the chase — Florida will pick up the tempo in 2020.
White said he’s putting 2019’s slow-paced play in the rear view mirror, and he expects UF to be quick on both ends of the court this season.
“We’re committed to play faster,” White said. “We’ve played faster in practice to this point consistently — both defensively and offensively. But we still have a ways to go.”
A “ways to go” is a nice way to put it. Florida clocked in at 68.4 possessions per game in 2019 — 296th-best in the NCAA.
And while Florida has a fair number of teams to chase down on the track, White’s excitement of his team’s new motor should suggest the Gators have nowhere to go but up.
But, with cases of COVID-19 spiking and concerns mounting, White said he understands he most likely won’t be sending out the same crew before every tip. He said he understands the possibility of players and coaches missing multiple games if COVID-19 breaches the locker room.
And even though Florida plans to pick up the pace on the court, the season itself will be a marathon due to COVID-19. The potential for season postponements and players sitting out with COVID-19 could make it an especially difficult year for everyone. Because of this, White said bench players need to step up in the event he can’t send his best five out on the hardwood. Florida just has to keep its pistons pumping.
“Player number 15 has to be coached just as hard,” White said. “He’s gotta be just as familiar with the system, held just as accountable, have just as good of an understanding of what he’s doing. Because player No. 15, a month from now, could be starting.”
While White said he’s facing more obstacles this year, he added his expectation level of players one through 15 remain the same. Spare parts could eventually become key pieces as the season progresses. He’s not letting up on anyone, he said .
“In terms of the culture piece and the expectation — the standard here — we’re not bending in those regards just because of the pandemic,” White said.
White also spoke about a few bench players who have lived up to his expectations and pushed the envelope. With the starting five expected to need a few extra oil changes this season, it’s important for Florida to carry a few players willing to step up when their number is called.
“I like our depth potential,” White said.
Two players White said he’s been impressed with are redshirt freshman guard Alex Klatsky and freshman guard Jack May.
White praised Klatsky and May for their development and intensity. He said if Klatsky can continue to make the shots he sinks in practice, he should see some minutes as the season progresses. White also added May is about as tough as anyone on the team.
All 15 players, including the freshmen and walk-ons, will be needed to cross the finish line this season.
Florida’s first tests come Wednesday against UMass Lowell and then Friday versus Virginia in the Basketball Hall of Fame Bubbleville in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Contact Dylan O'Shea at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @dylanoshea24.