“I’ll play walk-ons. I don’t care.”
Mike White is fed up. Fed up with his team, fed up with losing and probably fed up with the media, too.
And I don’t blame him.
The Florida Gators basketball team is capable of having a better record than 4-3.
Let me be very clear: As of right now, this does not look like an NCAA Tournament team.
It’s shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from three. For an offense predicated on the three-ball, 36.2 percent is simply unacceptable.
I could go into all sorts of stats about how the Gators could improve, but their biggest problem is intangible: effort.
If you look on the court, you might see one player giving maximum effort at all times - forward Kevarrius Hayes. And White noticed.
“We have one guy on our team that goes every time because he’s supposed to go,” White said when asked about the team’s lack of rebounding. “He’s been asked to go, it’s his job - Kevarrius Hayes - and he’s hard to block out because he goes 10 out of 10 times.”
But everyone else, well, you might have more trouble getting consistent heart.
White gave a very frank assessment. After speaking on Hayes, he moved on to the rest of his players.
“They go when it’s easy. They go when the air conditioning is blowing across the gym the right way.”
Talk about straightforward. White’s done with the lack of effort from his team.
And can you blame him? His two senior guards (Jalen Hudson and KeVaughn Allen), prior to last night’s contest against North Florida, were shooting 19 percent and 23.9 percent from three, respectively. Hudson came back to Florida to improve his draft stock, yet found himself on the bench in favor of freshman guard Noah Locke in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas last week.
How is it that one of the most NBA-ready players on the team has a lack of intensity? There’s no doubt in my mind White has laid out the expectation to him.
And it’s not just Hudson.
If you watched the game against Oklahoma, the Sooners only won by five but destroyed the Gators on the boards (48-34). Although UF is a smaller team, it wasn’t like Oklahoma was huge — it simply crashed the boards and showed maximum effort for 40 minutes. The whole team was exposed.
White shouldn’t be having to bench Hudson to send a message to the team at all, much less this early in the season.
Florida needs to take a page out of Dan Mullen’s playbook — “relentless effort” has been his season-long slogan.
If I were White and effort was that serious of a problem, I can guarantee you walk-ons Mak Krause and Andrew Fava would be trotting out with the starting five. There’s not a doubt in my mind they have given every ounce of energy they have every single practice.
The Gators look like they don’t want to be out there half the time - that needs to change.
And Mike White has every right to be infuriated because of it.
Chris O’Brien is a sports writer. Follow him on Twitter @THEChrisOB and contact him at [email protected].