Florida’s men’s basketball team is just 21 days away from its first game of the season against North Florida, and it has been busy acclimating its large roster of newcomers to the program. The Gators have high expectations coming into this season, but already they’ve faced two difficulties that they’ll need to overcome to start the season strong.
Gorjok Gak injured
Junior center Gorjok Gak was hoping to have a bounce-back year after missing the entirety of last season recovering from knee surgery in the offseason.
Coach Mike White announced on Thursday, however, that Gak would have to wait longer.
Gak suffered a dislocated shoulder in practice, and according to White, there is currently no timetable for the Australian native’s return to the court.
“I just feel horrible for (Gak),” White said. “He’s been playing really well.”
With Gak out, once again, Florida will look to its other young bigs in freshmen forward Omar Payne and center Jason Jitoboh to step up in his absence. Sophomore Andrew Nembhard stressed, however, that Gak’s injury shouldn’t have to be the catalyst for the team’s forwards to work on their game.
“They’re going to have to step up regardless,” Nembhard said. “Try to give anything they can to the team, whether that is on the offense or defensive side of the ball.”
Despite the injury, White and the rest of the team hope that Gak could make a return later in the season. If he does manage to get healthy, the Gators would be well-served by a player that White believes has been playing some of his best basketball since he arrived at UF.
“He’s probably got a really strong argument to be the first guy off the bench,” White said. “It’s part of life, I guess, and hopefully he’ll be back at 100 percent sooner than later.”
Offense wins games but…
Defense wins championships, as the old saying goes, and White’s outlook on that side of the ball was grimly blunt.
“We’re not very good defensively right now,” he said.
White has long been a believer that defense is the key to success on the court, and he cited a lack of experience and a “lack of interest” from Florida’s freshmen as two culprits for a squad that he insisted was further along offensively.
“Having a lot of new guys, they have to adjust to coach White’s style of play on the defensive end,” Nembhard said. “That will come in time, and even with game experience, too.”
With just four returners to the team with Gak’s injury, a large part of the Gators’ roster has had to take some time to learn the system, and that includes Kerry Blackshear Jr. He has been adjusting to UF’s gameplan after arriving from Virginia Tech, but still has confidence that the team can pull together a strong defensive unit.
“(We need to) just keep working together, trust in the defensive principles that we have set in place,” Blackshear Jr. said. “I think with time, we’ll be a really good defensive team as (we) have been in years past.”
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells. Contact him at [email protected]