AP NEWS

Florida having to retool roster after numerous departures

April 11, 2019
FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2019, file photo, Florida coach Mike White reacts to a call during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee, in Knoxville, Tenn. Florida coach Mike White could barely field a team right now. White has a six-man roster heading into the offseason after three players finished their senior years and four others decided to transfer. The departures leave the Gators searching for help and counting on White’s best signing class in four years in Gainesville. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Mike White could barely field a basketball team right now.

White has a six-man roster heading into the offseason after three players finished their senior years and four others decided to transfer.

The departures leave the Gators searching for help and counting on White’s best signing class in four years in Gainesville. The turnover could end up benefiting the program, especially down the road. But it also forced White to scramble following Florida’s second-round loss to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re really open to any guy out there that is a really good fit and would accept a role,” White said recently. “We hope that we can find some guys that want to be a part of Florida basketball ascending and be a part of a big year — maybe two, maybe three, maybe four — and be a part of something special bigger than themselves.”

The Gators finished 20-16 this past season, losing 10 games to teams that advanced to the Sweet 16 or beyond. Florida was filled with flaws, especially on the offensive end , and White ended up starting three freshmen late.

Point guard Andrew Nembhard, shooter Noah Locke and versatile forward Keyontae Johnson are expected to make up the core of the team as sophomores next season. Big men Dontay Bassett, Gorjok Gak and Isaiah Stokes also return.

But the rest of the roster will be comprised of newcomers.

Forward Scottie Lewis, guard Tre Mann and center Omar Payne already signed with Florida. Lewis and Mann are the first two McDonald’s All-Americans to choose the Gators during White’s tenure.

Florida also picked up two commitments from Tennessee in the last two weeks, with point guard Jacques Glover from Knoxville and center Jason Jitoboh from Chattanooga announcing plans to sign with the Gators on Wednesday.

That still leaves White with three scholarships available for next season.

With no rising seniors on the roster, White likely will leave one spot open for 2020-21. In the meantime, he’s trying to fill those two open spots.

Former Louisiana Tech forward Anthony Duruji is scheduled to visit Florida this weekend. As a sophomore this past season, the 6-foot-7, 215-pound sophomore averaged 12.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. He led the Bulldogs in rebounding and blocks, and second on the team in scoring. He also started every game and shot 34% from 3-point range.

Wherever Duruji lands — he’s been linked to more than a dozen schools — he will have to sit out next season and would have two years of college eligibility remaining.

Former Butler center Joey Brunk also is expected to visit Florida.

The 6-foot-11, 230-pounder averaged 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds as a third-year sophomore and developed a reputation as a high-energy guy. Brunk is a graduate transfer and will be eligible to play right away.

“We’ve just got to get better up front,” White said.

Former William & Mary shooting guard and graduate transfer Matt Milon also is reportedly considering Florida.

The 6-foot-5 lefty averaged 13 points and shot 40% from 3-point range as a fourth-year junior. The Orlando-area native started his college career at Boston College before transferring to William & Mary.

“We’d like frontcourt help, but we’d also like to shoot it better,” White said. “We’d like to add backcourt guys. We’d like to add character guys. Open to anything. We’d just like to piece it together anyway we can.”

White’s roster started unraveling in late December when forward Chase Johnson left the program. Guards Deaundrae Ballard and Mike Okauru as well as injured forward Keith Stone did the same days after the season ended, all looking for more playing time.

“It’s part of it. It’s college basketball,” White said. “There are hundreds already who have already decided to transfer throughout the country and there will be hundreds more. Not surprised at all. You meet with your guys and you forecast the future and certain roles, you have back-and-forth conversations. Some guys become very excited about the coming year, some guys look for other opportunities.”

Throw in the departure of up-and-down seniors KeVaughn Allen, Kevarrius Hayes and Jalen Hudson, and Florida could end up replacing seven of 13 scholarship players before next year.

“We’ll figure it out,” White said.

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