Florida men’s basketball coach Mike White spoke with the media Monday for the first time since Keyontae Johnson’s health crisis on Dec. 12 and touched on the role the star looks to take moving forward with the program and how the team is adjusting.
Johnson, who collapsed on the court against Tallahassee two weeks ago, has been making great strides in his recovery and was released from the hospital Dec. 22 and was able to spend the holidays with his family according to the team.
White, who spent multiple days in Tallahassee while Johnson was in the hospital there, said the team was emotional upon receiving good news about Johnson’s health. However, Johnson has been back with the program and attended practices Sunday and Monday, talking with the team and helping the coaches. White said he’s been watching tape on Vanderbilt and wants to help out with scouting.
“He joked about being heavily involved with scouting on the front end but it’s actually coming to fruition, maybe we thought he was joking and he wasn’t,” White said. “In fact, coach Mincy’s (asisstant coach Jordan Mincy) got the next scout and coach Mincy and I had an early morning meeting set for this morning and when I showed up at the office, Coach Mincy was in his office and Keyontae was in there with him.”
White said he felt Johnson’s new role could help with his development and also the progression of the team by offering another voice.
As for the rest of the season, White said the decision to suspend the final two weeks of non-conference games was made in the best interest of the athletes and the biggest focus ramping back up towards the Vanderbilt game is to make sure not to push the team too far after the time away.
“The first day sprinting was yesterday and we didn’t want to sprint like we did the day before Tallahassee because we haven’t sprinted in two weeks,” White said in one example.
White said that, while the team has become more accustomed to the process to getting back into form after a break or a pause in activities, the lack of time between the resumption of practice and the resumption of play will make being ready for Vanderbilt difficult.
“We’re not going to be in SEC shape on Wednesday,” White said, “We’re just not.”
Even once the team reaches game shape, the coach acknowledges that his unit won’t be the same group without Johnson on the floor and he isn’t quite sure what that will amount to yet, but knows it is all a process the program must work through..
“We certainly got to get to the point where we have that pep in our step and that competitive spirit back,” White said.
Florida is set to take the court for the first time in 18 days against Vanderbilt in its SEC opener on Wednesday at 9 p.m.