College basketball season is now just a couple weeks away, and many teams, including the Gators, are preparing for exhibition games. These contests help squads gauge where they’re at as a team and focus on areas that need to be improved before the regular season gets underway.
Florida’s exhibition takes place Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the O’Connell Center, where the Gators will match up with the Lynn University Fighting Knights. Between now and then, UF coach Mike White is hoping to get healthier following a closed scrimmage over the weekend and show more consistency in practice after one on Tuesday that White dubbed “horrendous”.
Gators on target from three during scrimmage
Florida ran with the Bulls on Saturday at the O’Connell Center, defeating USF in a closed preseason scrimmage, 76-58.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. had 17 points, draining four from beyond the arc. The Gators, as a group, shot well from three, going 13 for 24 as six different UF players made at least one trey.
“We really shot the ball well,” White said during Thursday’s media availability. “That was pleasing. That was probably the biggest surprise out of the (scrimmage).”
Although White was happy with the shot percentage, he made it known that they aren’t going to necessarily make shots at such a high clip like that every game.
“You’re hoping that your guys would understand that we can’t expect to shoot the ball that well…I like the way that we shared the ball, a lot of extra passes, but you can’t expect to shoot 50-something percent on the season.”
Florida battling injury as regular season approaches
UF has a lot of talent but not as much depth, and a few injuries here and there can certainly make a huge impact on a team that has just 11 eligible scholarship players for the 2019-20 season.
The team was handed a massive blow a couple weeks ago with the announcement of Gorjok Gak’s shoulder injury that’ll keep him out indefinitely, and on Thursday, White shared some additional injury news.
“Dontay (Bassett)’s been out,” White said. “We’re hoping it’s a minor knee, hoping it’s just a bruise…Ques Glover is a little banged up with a finger issue as well.”
White also mentioned that guard Andrew Nembhard has missed some time battling tendinitis.
If some of these minor injuries linger for a longer period of time, UF’s freshmen, especially the ones down low in Omar Payne and Jason Jitoboh, will get some extended playing time.
“You’d like to see them play like sophomores,” White said, referring to his freshmen low-post players with Gak and Bassett battling injury. “But unfortunately they have no idea what’s about to hit them.”
Florida’s team culture healthy early
The execution of a team’s performance on the court a lot of times relies on a team’s togetherness off of it, and this group of Florida players continues to impress White in that aspect.
With nine new faces on a 14-man roster, you’d assume there’d be some gaps in camaraderie, but so far that hasn’t been the case.
“We’ve got some strong personalities, and I think that’s a good thing,” White said. “These guys are really close, especially for this early on with this many new guys, it’s actually been pretty surprising.”
To be the Final Four-caliber team that many believe they are, the sixth-ranked Gators will need to continue to grow on and off the court heading into Tuesday and beyond.
Follow Evan Lepak on Twitter @evanmplepak. Contact him at [email protected]