UF hot for guard prospects

Florida coach Billy Donovan has spent much of July recruiting two guard prospects from south Florida.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, August 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 2, 2008 at 12:16 a.m.

LAKE BUENA VISTA As he dribbled the ball between his legs, high-stepping Harlem Globetrotter-style, Kenny Boynton scanned the opposing defense in front of him.

Seconds later, teammate Brandon Knight curled toward the free-throw line. Boynton found Knight with a no-look pass that Knight caught in stride. Knight finished the play with a soft 12-foot jumper, another in an array of clutch baskets.

In front of a handful of Division I basketball coaches that included Florida coach Billy Donovan and assistant Rob Lanier, Boynton and Knight continued to show why they are two of the most highly regarded college guard prospects in the nation. At the AAU national championships at the Disney Sports Complex, Knight and Boynton led Miami-based Team Breakdown to its second straight national title in the 17-under division.

Both Fort Lauderdale-area guards have expressed interest in coming to Florida, which is why Donovan and Lanier spent much of the July recruiting period tracking Team Breakdown games. But Florida may have a tough time keeping both players in-state. Many recruiting Web sites rank Boynton as one of the top three shooting-guard prospects in the country for the Class of 2009. Knight, a year younger, is among the top five point-guard prospects in the nation for 2010.

Boynton said he's noticed Donovan at more of his games lately but said he zones out coaches once the game begins.

"Florida has stepped it up a lot in my recruitment," Boynton said. "They've come to all my games ... I think Florida is on the job right now in recruiting."

Boynton, who said he will determine what visits he takes in a few weeks, said he has Florida in his final seven with Duke, Memphis, Kansas State, USC, Texas and Georgia Tech. Kansas State coach Frank Martin watched Thursday night in the final hours of the Division I evaluation period that ended Aug. 1. Also in folding chairs behind the basket were assistants from Miami, Georgia Tech and Florida State.

Boynton said he was a Florida fan growing up. His former high school teammate at American Heritage in Plantation, forward Eloy Vargas, is an incoming UF freshman in the 2008 class.

"I know about the history and I liked them growing up," Boynton said. "I know when they lost to Michigan State in the Final Four and when they won the back-to-back national championships they recently had."

Boynton also said he talks with Vargas: "He tells me he likes (Florida), but we mainly talk about academics, how he's handling that."

Thursday night, Knight displayed his ball-handling skills in a pretty fullcourt play, weaving past defenders from one end to the other and finishing with a pretty finger roll to the basket. The 6-foot-3 Knight is more of a pure point guard than the 6-2 Boynton, and releases a smoother shot. Boynton has a stronger upper body, which he used effectively on Thursday night to create his own scoring opportunities.

Knight said that Florida is currently "on the radar" but hasn't compiled a list of schools yet.

"Just the history, what's coming up right now, the back-to-back national championships," Knight said, when asked about Florida. "Billy Donovan, of course. Just how they win championships and get all their players, not just one player looks good, every player on their team looks good."

Knight said he's aware that standout 2011 point guard recruit Austin Rivers committed to Florida earlier this summer. Knight admitted he follows commitments.

"I think you have to look at that," Knight said. " I think that's part of recruiting, seeing who is going where ."

But Knight said the Rivers commitment wouldn't sway his decision in potentially coming to Florida. Knight would arrive on campus a year sooner if he signed with UF.

"I don't really care who goes where," Knight said. "I'm going to battle for a position no matter what."

Team Breakdown needed big games from both Knight and Boynton to beat the Boston Amateur Basketball Club in a thrilling double-overtime semifinal game. It gave the coaches a chance to gauge Boynton and Knight in pressure situations. Boynton, after missing his first four 3-point attempts, hit a flurry of 3s in the fourth quarter.

"Coach tells me, keep shooting," said Boynton, who acknowledged after the game he needs to improve his shooting percentage and shot selection.

Boynton finished with 16 points, two assists and two steals, going 4-for-9 from 3-point range. Knight sank 5-of-6 free-throws in overtime and finished with 24 points, going 3-of-4 from 3-point range.

Both acknowledged they have thought about playing together in college, though it wouldn't be a package deal because they are a year apart.

"There's a good chance that could happen," Boynton said.

Knight, however, was more cautious when asked about a potential Boynton-Knight backcourt.

"It would be fun, but that's a long time from now," he said.

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