THE BIG FUNDAMENTAL
Florida's trademark this season might be an ability to rain jumpers from the perimeter, but for the Gators' first few practices in October, most of the shots were hoisted during defensive drills. Coach MIKE WHITE knows what he can get offensively from a lineup built around guard KEVAUGHN ALLEN (14.0 ppg, 37.0% from three-point range last season), but he wanted to make sure his players understood how many points can be saved by keeping their hands high, filling passing lanes and closing out on shooters. "You want to be clear with what you value more than anything else—with what is most important to your staff and your program," says White, who led Florida to the Elite Eight in his second season after replacing Billy Donovan. "We start every year with the fundamentals in terms of building our defense."
That focus will be more important than ever this year. Following the departures of 6'8" wings Devin Robinson and Justin Leon, the Gators won't be as long on the perimeter. They'll have to rely less on athleticism and more on technique and hustle to limit threes and to deflect entry passes into the post. Florida should get a boost in the paint around the time it begins SEC play. That's when 6'11" center JOHN EGBUNU is expected to return after tearing his left ACL last February. Until then, a committee of young post players will have to learn on the job. As long as they're embracing their defensive fundamentals, White will be happy. He knows the points will come.
PROJECTED TEAM STATS
With 2017--18 projections for the top six scorers
COACH MIKE WHITE (3RD SEASON)
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
KeVaughn Allen [Starter] 6'2" Jr.
Chris Chiozza [Starter] 6'0" Sr.
Jalen Hudson 6'6" Jr.
Egor Koulechov [Starter] 6'5" Sr.
John Egbunu 6'11" Sr.
Kevarrius Hayes [Starter] 6'9" Jr.
EGOR KOULECHOV, a 6'5" grad transfer from Rice, hit 47.4% of his three-point attempts last season, and his new teammates have taken to calling him 3-Gor. But coach Mike White has quipped that he'd rather have the Volgograd, Russia, native be known as D-Gor.