Moving on from Billy Donovan
Gainesville, FL- Gator fans are used to their squad being one of the top basketball programs in the nation, but last year the storied men’s basketball program was dealt an enormous blow. Their first losing season since the 1997-98 season, 18 years ago. To make matters worse, the loss of Billy Donovan, the man who led the Gators for 19 seasons, was a loss that many expected to be a death sentence to the program and its recruiting ability. However, the Gators look poised for a return to the NCAA tournament and and future looks extremely bright. New head coach Michael White hails from Louisiana Tech, where he coached 141 games over 4 seasons for the Bulldogs. Louisiana Tech suffered through a 12-20 record during the 2011 season. Enter Mike White, known for high energy, fast break, sharpshooting offense. In his first year as head coach, the Bulldogs winning percentage improved form .375% to .529%, By the time Coach White finished his 4 years in Louisiana, he bolstered a much improved .716% win percentage, nearly double of what it was when he arrived.
Many skeptics of the Orange and Blue are also concerned about the talent on the roster, especially after losing their 2nd leading scorer in Michael Frazier II. However, Senior Dorian Finney-Smith returns as the teams leading scorer (13.1 PPG) and is ready to serve as a mentor to a strong incoming freshman class. The young blood coming to Gainesville is headlined by Kevaughn Allen, a strong 6’3 guard who excels at cutting to the hoop and provides a nice outside shooting ability. It shouldn’t be too far fetched to see Allen in the Gators starting lineup, his high energy style and ability to run on the break should fit perfectly into Coach White’s style of play.
Two other freshman, Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes also provide much needed forward depth. Hayes is a strong 6 foot 9 rebounder who plays with grit and excels on the defensive end of the court, he also has the tools and size to develop a strong offensive game as well. Keith Stone, juxtaposes Hayes as he is a terrific scorer ho can drive and finish at the rim and is also a raw talent capable of reaching stardom with the Gators. All three of these freshmen are 4 star recruits according to ESPN and can be expected to contribute immediately on the court.
The O-Dome looks to be rocking this year to the high energy Gators and their renewed purpose under Coach White. Freshmen talent matched with upperclassmen leadership seem to be a formula that can lead the Gators back to the NCAA Tournament. Just how successful they will be will be determined starting November 13th, when they clash with the Navy Midshipmen in Annapolis to start their season.
All statistics from www.sports-reference.com
Tyler Murtha ’19