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Tuesday, January 18, 2022
<p dir="ltr"><span>Florida coach Mike White said center Kevarrius Hayes is the only player devoting 100-percent effort to rebounding.</span> “He’s been asked to go, it’s his job," White said, "Kevarrius Hayes - and he’s hard to block out because he goes 10 out of 10 times.”</p><p><span> </span></p><p dir="ltr"> </p>

Florida coach Mike White said center Kevarrius Hayes is the only player devoting 100-percent effort to rebounding. “He’s been asked to go, it’s his job," White said, "Kevarrius Hayes - and he’s hard to block out because he goes 10 out of 10 times.”

 

 

The Gators didn’t make the cut for the AP preseason top 25 poll. But that isn’t a reason for the team to not have hope for the season.

Inconsistency marred last season, but the squad returns every single member of the team save for flashy point guard Chris Chiozza, sharpshooter Egor Koulechov and the injured John Egbunu. The latter of the three sat out all of last season while rehabbing a knee injury.

The Gators replaced those three with three new recruits: five-star point guard Andrew Nembhard, four-star shooting guard Noah Locke and four-star forward Keyontae Johnson.

Nembhard hails from Montverde Academy just outside of Orlando and played on the U-18 Canadian National Team. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 15.7 points, 8.8 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals during the U18 Americas Championship back in June.

Whether it’s Nembhard or last year’s backup point guard Mike Okauru who trots it out with the starting five remains to be seen. Coach Mike White doesn’t appear he’ll release a decision prior to Tuesday night’s exhibition with Florida Southern.

“Not really. Both of them are playing well. They’re both very different,” White said when asked if either guy had stuck out thus far. “KeVaughn (Allen) and Jalen Hudson have both gotten reps at the point as well in practice, so we can play different ways there.”

One main storyline for UF this year will be the consistency of forward Keith Stone. Or perhaps, the lack thereof.

When alligatorSports reporter Tyler Nettuno asked White, “Has Keith Stone been consistent?” the third-year coach responded with a smile.

“At times. That kind of answers your consistency question.”

When Stone is clicking, the offense is as well. Last season against No.11 Texas A&M, Stone erupted for 18 points on 4 for 6 three-point shooting. He had three games with over 20 points but also had games where he pulled a Houdini act and simply disappeared (see: 77-72 loss against South Carolina where he only notched three points on 1 for 3 shooting).

A big point for White this year has been trying to find a vocal leader in the locker room, something that was a consistent problem last year. It appears White has finally found his guy in senior center Kevarrius Hayes.

“Kevarrius Hayes has made a big jump. He’s the guy right now,” White said. “I don’t know how many minutes he plays, I don’t know how many points he averages, but he is the guy that has become very vocal, very demanding.”

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In addition to Nembhard, Locke and Johnson figure to see some minutes in a crowded rotation.

Locke was a deadeye shooter this previous summer on the Nike EYBL summer circuit. The guard with a 6-foot-8 wingspan shot 46 percent from three. A high school three-point line, that is.

But Locke doesn’t care.

“I mean, I usually shoot further back anyway, so I mean there isn’t much of a difference for me,” he said.

Johnson is an athletic specimen and does a really good job infiltrating the paint.

“Keyontae, he’s got a lot of God-given ability,” White said. “Explosive athlete, great length, good basketball IQ, sees the game.”

The Gators face off against Florida Southern in an exhibition Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the O’Connell Center. White said his team is eager to face off with a team in another jersey.

“We’re just anxious to play somebody else here pretty soon.”

 

Follow Chris O'Brien on Twitter @THEChrisOB or contact him at cobrien@alligator.org.

 

Florida coach Mike White said center Kevarrius Hayes is the only player devoting 100-percent effort to rebounding. “He’s been asked to go, it’s his job," White said, "Kevarrius Hayes - and he’s hard to block out because he goes 10 out of 10 times.”

 

 

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