Farewell, Andy Kennedy
As a former student and player at Ole Miss and then as an assistant coach under Andy Kennedy for the Rebels, Mike White had nothing but kind words for his former boss on Tuesday afternoon. It was announced earlier this week that Kennedy and the Rebels would be parting ways following the conclusion of the season. But when he was asked about the vacancy in Oxford, White quickly shot down any rumors.
“I have no interest, no interest at all. I love Ole Miss, my wife loves Ole Miss, it’s a great place, great people, Oxford’s an awesome town. Ole Miss has been really, really good to me, but we are so fortunate to be here at Florida, it’s one of the best jobs in the country. I’m not interested in any other job.”
Jalen Hudson’s Defensive Improvement
Jalen Hudson has played at least 30 minutes in three of Florida’s last four games and has three steals in the team’s last two contests. While Hudson started the Gators’ game vs. LSU because KeVaughn Allen was late to shoot around, the opportunity blossomed into Hudson starting once again in the team’s next game vs. South Carolina. Against the Gamecocks, Hudson posted a team-high 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting, while adding 5 rebounds.
The Virginia Tech-transfer has the scoring, passing and athleticism to become an NBA player, but according to multiple scouts I’ve spoken to, his defense is holding him back. If Hudson can indeed gain consistency on the defensive end, you’ll see him on a lot more NBA Draft boards in coming weeks. Mike White spoke about Hudson’s defensive improvement at his press conference on Tuesday.
“Jalen [Hudson] has played with more energy, especially on the ball. I thought it started against LSU. He got some opportunities to guard Tremont Waters and I think he was just excited about the challenge knowing how talented this guy is and it carried over into practice. It’s really been about 10 days now where we’ve seen a different energy level in Jalen [Hudson]. It’s refreshing of course.”
Defense and Energy
It’s no secret that the Gators’ defense has been markedly better in the team’s last two games than it’s been in previous weeks. Florida held LSU and South Carolina to a combined 36.1% shooting from the field and 26.8% shooting from beyond the arc. Those numbers are 7% and 9.1% better than their season averages. Mike White had two telling quotes about the team’s effort and energy on Tuesday afternoon.
“If we can string together three, four, five, six of these games where we’re playing at a really, really high level of intensity and focus and togetherness, whether you win or not, I’ll feel more confident moving forward that we’ve matured and we’ve grown…The last two games I thought we played with as much urgency as we’ve played with all year… ”
“[My team] refocused their priorities a little bit on what it takes to win and compete at the highest level. I think at times this team’s focus has been how many am I scoring or how many shots am I getting or how many minutes am I going to play and we’ve had some selfishness we’ve had to deal with this year. Again, great guys, but we’ve had some guys whose identity rested on offense as much as anything and individual accolades I think a little bit too much. The last two games we were locked in on doing our job for the team. We hope that continues.”
Battle of the Boards
The Gators notched their best rebounding margin of the season (+22) on Saturday afternoon vs. South Carolina. Florida sent four or five men consistently to the defensive boards and did everything they could to keep Chris Silva and co. off the glass. White said that the team’s effort on Wednesday vs. Georgia must be similar to their play vs. South Carolina and far different from their first meeting with the Bulldogs.
“Without that [effort on the boards], we won't have an opportunity if we play with the same physicality and aggression and edge that we brought to Athens, we can't beat these guys. They're just too good on the interior, both on the glass and scoring it and defensively. They just manhandled us on the interior in Athens. We've got to be much better to have a chance."
No update was given on Chase Johnson (concussion) or Isaiah Stokes (knee) on Tuesday afternoon. While there weren’t many specifics given on John Egbunu’s (knee) recovery process, though he could apply for a sixth year of eligibility, White indicated that this will more than likely be Egbunu’s last season at Florida.
“I do [think this is his last go around]. I haven’t had any discussion about it. We’re just hopeful. He and [our trainer] Duke [Werner] are I guess together now and are trying to gather more and more information [on] where it stands. I think John [Egbunu] is really eager to help this team any way he can. He’s getting really antsy. That’s what we’re focused on right now.”
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