Pinkins already making impression on Gators basketball

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Florida's Kevarrius Hayes has benefitted from Al Pinkins coaching. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Aside from the team’s three freshmen, there was a fresh face at Florida’s first practice of preseason camp.

Al Pinkins, UF’s new associate head coach, joined the program in May following Florida’s Round of 32 loss to Texas Tech, and he’s quickly made an impact — although technically the Gators felt his impact prior to his arrival in Gainesville.

Pinkins took the job after Armon Gates’ three-week stint in Gainesville didn’t quite go according to plan, and ironically enough it was Pinkins who just two months prior had helped guide the Red Raiders to second place in the Big 12 conference and the first Elite Eight finish in program history.

To say Pinkins’s 15 years of collegiate coaching experience brings a certain level of insight to the Gators program would be a fair assessment, and those under his tutelage have already noticed the knowledge he brings to practice.

“Great guy. His character really shows. I think he’s going to help our big guys a lot,” senior guard/forward Jalen Hudson said. “Our big guys have really improved already since he’s been here. I’m just excited to see how well he can help us. I’m just excited that he joined our program. We need him, and I think it’s a great fit for him.”

Pinkins, who fills the spot first vacated when associate coach Dusty May left in March for the top job at FAU, is expected to prioritize developing Florida’s frontcourt, which is wrought with inexperience aside from senior Kevarrius Hayes. With his high-energy style of play, in addition to a motor that allows him to compete at both ends of the floor, Hayes is focused on tinkering the little things that go a long way, such as his footwork and mental awareness on the court, while also continuing to develop a consistent jumpshot and mid-range game.

In a larger role last season, Hayes remained UF’s top defender in the frontcourt, but his offensive numbers declined after a promising sophomore campaign.

Hayes’ true shooting percentage — a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account two-point field goals, three-point field goals and free throws — dipped in the 2017-18 season, and his player efficiency rating dropped from 22.1 to 16.2 as well.

“(I’ve worked on) a little bit of mid-range, more footwork around the basket, just working on a little post,” Hayes, asked about his improvements in the offseason, said. “Coach Pinkins helps out a lot with that. And finishing (shots) more.”

Considering he plans on embracing a leadership role this season, Hayes is looking to do everything Pinkins has asked of him. It’s already paying dividends, Hayes said, just three weeks into Pinkins’ first preseason camp in Gainesville.

“He definitely knows a lot, he’s always helping me add on to things. Even stuff that I do well, he helps me get better at it,” Hayes said. “Finishing around the basket, post moves, times to look to be aggressive. Stuff like that.”

There’s more often than not a transition period a person undergoes when taking on a new job in an unfamiliar city, and it can result in a timid attitude in the workplace. That hasn’t been the case with Pinkins and his new boss, UF head coach Mike White, as Pinkins quickly started making an impression around the program.

“A new voice for our guys, not only on the floor, but up in the offices. He’s the old man on staff, and he sees things differently as (assistant coaches) Jordan (Mincy) and Darris (Nichols) and myself,” White said. “It’s refreshing, new ideas, new ways of thinking. He’s been a different voice for our bigs, who are all progressing. He’s got different offensive and defensive philosophies, but he’s also not overly convicted. He’s a good teammate as well. He’s blended in really well.”

14 COMMENTS

  1. Hayes “production” may have declined last season but I thought he was a much better player and helped the team more last year than the year before. Can he improve, sure. I guess that is why coaches rely on more that just stats. Go Gators!

    • I agree, Joel. He doesn’t have to be a go-to guy, but he needs step up the offensive production to about 8 points per game and match that with 7 or 8 rebounds, to complement the shot blocking he’s always provided. Better FT shooting wouldn’t hurt, either. His shot looks so good to be so inconsistent.

    • The problem was Hayes is an off the bench guy…having to play more minutes due to injuries, He can be effective with his shot blocking and length. We know his hands are literally made of bedrock…lol, but he can be a solid contributor as an effort guy.

      • Yeah, you’re right about his hands, but still holding out hope for improvement. Either way, with enough effort and better FT shooting, I think he could average 8 just on dump-off buckets, put-backs and FT’s.

  2. I’m expecting Hayes, Hudson and Allen to elevate their game well above what we’ve seen from them a year ago. It’s unusual to return three seniors of their caliber, and adding in the emerging younger talent along with the large class of talented freshmen/redshirt freshmen this team shapes up as our best since Patric Young was fronting a well-seasoned line-up. Can’t wait for basketball!