Florida's men’s basketball team spoke to the media Tuesday, and alligatorSports came away with some interesting tidbits before the Gators’ first fall practice of the year Friday.
Here are three notable quotes that set the tone for the upcoming season:
“It’s helped with molding him as a player, and probably as a person, too,” Mike White on Andrew Nembhard’s tenure with Team Canada
There were quite a few questions fired at coach Mike White’s way during his press conference, but he was asked early on about point guard Andrew Nembhard’s tenure with Canada for the 2020 FIBA World Cup this summer.
Nembhard – who declared for the NBA Draft but returned to Florida after not being invited to the NBA Combine – was still able to play alongside NBA players when he was with the Canadian team. Nembhard was vocal about the benefits that came alongside playing with such talent.
“I learned a lot from veteran guys in the NBA,” he said. “It made me a much smarter player.”
White also mentioned that Nembhard could be a leader of the team in his second year, and he expects that side of Nembhard to shine once the season begins.
“He wants to take it to the next level,” White said. “I didn’t have to beg that out of him.”
“Mike White doesn’t care about what other people say,” Scottie Lewis on his head coach
After a disappointing finish in the Round of 32 last season, quite a few Gators fans took to websites like Reddit and 247Sports to discuss their distaste for Florida’s head coach, despite the fact that he led them to the NCAA Tournament.
Some fans may have lost faith. For the players, though, it’s stronger than ever.
“He’s someone that will get me confidence to do what I need to do,” Kerry Blackshear Jr., Florida’s newest graduate transfer, said. “This is an environment that I want to be in.”
White is 89-53 with UF, and he’s led the Gators to the NCAA Tournament three times in his four years as coach. Despite his success and a talented roster for 2019-20, White is tempering his expectations.
“How good will we be by December, early November, mid-February?” White said. “I don’t know.”
“Those are some guys that are going to be ready this year, that will help us win some games,” Kerry Blackshear Jr. on the team’s freshmen
There are 14 players on Florida’s roster this year. Six of them are freshmen.
With young players making up a large part of the team, UF will rely on its freshmen to be a driving force for the squad. The team’s veteran players think they’ll do just that.
“They bring (elite energy) to the team,” Blackshear said. “They have an influx of talent that’s comparable to any team in the country.”
Forward Omar Payne and guards Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis are three newcomers that will contribute to a Florida team that has seen recent success with first-year players. Forward Keyontae Johnson, who is entering his second year with the program, gave the team’s freshmen a particular piece of advice as they adjust to the speed of college play.
“Defense is the main key of college,” Johnson said. “It’s not all about scoring. It’s about getting stops.”
White praised the young players during his press conference, but also noted that they’ll have to adjust to the college game before the season starts in November.
“It’s going to be a rude awakening for some of these guys,” White said.
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells. Contact him at [email protected].