Florida was counting on junior center Kevarrius Hayes for leadership and production heading into this season.
But so far. Hayes has endured a rocky start to the 2017-18 campaign. After not starting UF’s second game of the season against UNF due to a minor academic issue, Hayes was suspended for UF’s first game at the PK 80 Tournament against Stanford for violating a team rule.
The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Hayes returned for UF’s final two games of the tournament, but wasn’t much of a factor. Hayes fouled out in 24 minutes against Gonzaga, finishing with 4 points, 4 rebounds 1 steal and 1 blocked shot. Against Duke, Hayes had 2 points, 2 steals and 3 rebounds in 25 minutes on the floor.
“We need leadership from a bunch of guys and there’s a challenge for all of our guys to step up in that role,” Florida coach Mike White said. “And him as much as anybody. He’s got to do all the right things, off the court. His focus has got to be terrific for us.
“Kevarrius is a great kid. He made a little minor mistake. I’m not so much worried about him off of the floor as I am with him getting back the mentality he had last February and March when we needed him the most to really step up as a high level defender and rebounder.”
Hayes stepped in for injured starting center John Egbunu last February and March and helped lead UF to an Elite Eight appearance with his ability to protect the rim and defend in the post. The Gators are going to need Hayes to play better defensively before Egbunu returns from a torn ACL in January.
“He showed that yesterday in practice after being challenged and it’s not surprising, and hopefully we see that moving forward,” White said.