Many people thought Kenny Boynton would leave Florida after his freshman season three years ago.
When he first committed to Florida on Oct. 30, 2008, the phrase “one and done” was often thrown around to describe the McDonald’s All-American from Pompano Beach.
Boynton came to Gainesville as the No. 12 recruit in his class — the highest-ranked player coach Billy Donovan had successfully recruited and signed at the time since Rivals.com began ranking basketball prospects in 2003.
For a team coming off consecutive NIT appearances in 2007-2009, the 6-foot-2 Boynton was expected to be an immediate but temporary solution in the backcourt for the Gators, who had just lost starting point guard Nick Calathes to a professional team in Greece.
As an undersized but electric guard, Boynton was a scoring machine in high school.
After splitting four years at Pompano Beach Blanche Ely High and American Heritage High in Plantation, Boynton finished his high school career as the third-leading scorer in the history of Florida high school basketball and one of the best players from Broward County.
On the surface, everything about Boynton shouted “NBA” and “one and done.”
“I know a lot of people expected it to go that way,” Boynton said.
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Although his NBA stock is no longer as high as it once was, Boynton has developed into one of the best players to don a Florida uniform.
Boynton has been a cog in UF’s starting lineup at shooting guard the past four years, starting 138 games and logging 4,564 minutes – both school bests.
He has not missed a game in his collegiate career and has started in all but three contests.
Despite a few shooting slumps along the way, Boynton has averaged 14.1 points per game on 39.9 percent shooting in 141 games.
During his time in Gainesville, Boynton has helped the Gators earn two Elite Eight appearances and a pair of SEC regular-season titles.
He ranks second on UF’s all-time scoring list with 1,995 points and owns the school record for three-point shots made.
“I didn’t think about breaking records or anything like that when I first got here,” Boynton said.
Heading into No. 3 seed Florida’s second-round NCAA Tournament matchup against 14th-seeded Northwestern State tonight at 7:27 p.m., Boynton is 95 points shy of Ronnie Williams’ scoring record.
If Florida were to advance to the national title game, Boynton would need to average 19 points per game to tie Williams.
While the all-time scoring feat seems out of reach for Boynton, he has never been enthralled with records or statistics.
“Kenny’s about the team stats and getting victories for his team,” said Danny Herz, Boynton’s high school coach at American Heritage. “He’s been around individual stats all his life because of his scoring prowess.”
This season, Boynton has seen a drop-off as a scorer, averaging a career-worst 12.3 points per game on a career-low 10.3 attempts per game. He has dealt with two five-game shooting slumps this year – a pair of droughts where he shot 13 of 51 and 17 of 53.
“When he struggles, he always comes out with a little bang,” senior forward Erik Murphy said.
“We always have confidence in him regardless. I always think he’s going to score or make shots.”
Boynton has also struggled late in games this season, shooting 0 of 2 from the field in the final 30 seconds when Florida trails a team by one or two points.
“When people watch him and the ball doesn’t go in the basket, it’s very, very easy to point fingers,” Donovan said.
“Maybe of anybody on our team, Kenny Boynton is truly loved inside of our team because he’s a great teammate. When he’s making some shots, it livens up our team, because our team looks to him in a lot of ways.”
During his career, Boynton has developed multiple facets of his game outside of scoring.
Boynton has improved his rebounding (3.1 boards per game) this season. In his four years at UF, he has become one of Florida’s top on-ball defenders.
As Florida’s backup point guard this season, Boynton has improved his ability to distribute the ball, averaging a career-best three assists per game.
Donovan admires Boynton’s emotional consistency as much as the senior’s steady play on the floor.
“When you’re dealing with young people, there’s usually a wide range of emotions sometimes you have to deal with,” Donovan said.
“Somebody’s box that they play in is pretty wide. He’s about as consistent of a guy as I’ve coached since his freshman year. His mood never changes. He’s reliable. You know what you’re getting.”
In his four seasons as a Gator, Boynton has also blossomed off the court. Coming to Florida as a reserved, soft-spoken kid, Boynton only would let loose around his family and those in his close circle.
Through the years, he has gradually broken out of his shell.
Boynton can often be seen bantering with his teammates during warm-ups and after games. His favorite things to joke about are rap lyrics and the rivalry between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
“My freshman and sophomore year, he didn’t really talk too much to everyone else,” junior center Patric Young said.
“But this year I really got a chance to see who he is as a person. He’s a really great guy, really funny, a really good guy to be around.”
Added Murphy, who is Boynton’s roommate: “That’s just come with age for him. He’s grown up, getting older and getting more connected.”
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Boynton never imagined he would remain at Florida for four years, but his parents did.
His family never wanted him to be a one-and-done player.
“I don’t believe in that, unless if you’re LeBron James or what have you,” said Dana Boynton, Kenny’s mother.
“I wanted him to experience the college life.”
Kenny comes from a tight-knit family that always emphasized the importance of academics and following a blueprint outside the world of basketball.
Dana, 46, has been a teacher for more than 25 years. She currently teaches English at Pompano Beach Middle School.
Kenny’s father, Kenny Boynton Sr., 48, was a standout at Bethune-Cookman for four seasons.
He is now a deputy with the Broward County Sheriff’s department.
Kenny’s older brother, Deandre Boynton, 26, was a point guard at Division II West Florida from 2005-2009 and still owns school records in steals and assists.
Deandre currently lives in Houston and has worked as a sports agent at Impact Sports Management for the past three years.
Kendia, 27, Kenny’s older sister, graduated from Florida A&M in 2009 and is employed at a property insurance firm in Fort Lauderdale.
Kenny’s parents know plenty about planning ahead.
“We’ve tried our best to keep him grounded and keep [Kenny] humble,” Dana said. “We’ve just kept it real with him.”
Said Herz: “His parents get it, in terms of what’s right from wrong.”
Dana and Kenny Sr. have monitored Boynton’s academic progress all his life.
From elementary to high school, Dana would make sure Kenny completed his schoolwork before going outside to shoot hoops.
Every day, Kenny would spend an hour and a half at the dining table finishing assignments.
“She’s always on top of us about our work,” Deandre said.
“That’s something I’ve always known growing up. If you don’t do your work, I had to deal with my mom. That was something I was always afraid of.
“School is very important, and if he didn’t take that seriously, there’s no reward after school.”
Kenny’s parents consult with Tom Williams, assistant athletics director for the UAA, every two weeks to make sure Boynton has met academic expectations in college.
Williams said Kenny has done well academically this year.
“Each year it’s, ‘What’s next in line? What do I need to do? What do I need to accomplish?’” Williams said. “His parents have instilled that in him.”
Kenny also found a mentor figure in Melvin Randall, his high school basketball coach and math teacher at Ely.
Randall, who had known the Boynton family since Kenny was born, became his godfather when Kenny was in the ninth grade.
Randall was also successful mentoring Kenny on the hardwood. Together, they helped Ely win the FHSAA Class 6A state championship in 2006.
But after his sophomore season, Kenny made a surprising decision, transferring from Ely to American Heritage.
Academics were as one of the main reasons Kenny transferred.
“I felt like Ely wasn’t a challenge for him,” Dana said.
“I wanted him to be challenged and college-ready. It was a very hard process, very hard. … Deep down inside, I’m sure he understood.”
Kenny was not struggling academically at Ely. He posted a 3.5 GPA during his sophomore year, according to Randall.
“[Kenny is] the type where he wanted to be pushed even more,” Randall said. “I thought that was pretty cool. A lot of kids these days want to transfer for — I shouldn’t say for the wrong reasons — but for the athletic reasons instead of the academic reasons.”
Kenny, 21, is set to graduate from UF in May with a degree in sociology.
Once Kenny’s playing career is done —whether it’s at the NBA or overseas — his family members see him pursuing a profession involving sports.
Deandre thinks Kenny would eventually want to coach down the line.
“At the end of the day with today’s generation, you don’t see it a lot,” Deandre said. “You can look at people like LeBron and look at other guys, but Kenny will have something those guys don’t have — a degree.”
Added Dana: “What I wanted to see is being done.”
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Boynton has achieved many things in his four-year career at Florida, but still missing is a key accomplishment: a Final Four appearance.
After two straight heartbreaking losses in the Elite Eight to Butler in 2011 and Louisville in 2012, Boynton is hungry to take the next step.
Over the phone Tuesday night, Randall spoke to Boynton, who sought advice before the No. 3 seed Gators face the No. 14 seed Demons tonight.
Randall’s message to Boynton was direct.
“‘This is your last March Madness. This is it,’” Randall told Boynton.
“He’s going into this March Madness with a little fire in his eyes.”
Boynton told ESPN’s Andy Katz on Jan. 8 that anything less than the Final Four this season would be a failure.
“I want them to say that I went out as a winner,” Boynton said. “In my four years here, I’ve tried my best to win as much as I could. Definitely, I want to go out this year as a winner, winning the national championship.”