Tyus gives Gators potent third option


Published: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 10:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 10:03 p.m.

Kenny Boynton knew about Alex Tyus, knew about the dreadlocks and the thunderous dunks, knew his strengths and knew his weaknesses. But on his first day of "open gym" when the 2009-10 Gator players gathered together for the first time, the freshman saw a different Alex Tyus.

"He was knocking down 18-footers," Boynton said. "I was surprised."

Tyus had worked on the outside shot to complement his inside game as he switched from center to power forward. And as he has become more comfortable with his new role, the points have started coming.

The junior has scored in double figures in his last 11 games and during that stretch he has averaged 14.8 points a game. On Wednesday night against Georgia, he scored 23 points that showed off his new skill set.

Outside jumpers, power dunks, post-up moves -- he had it all working.

"Definitely, I feel like I'm understanding my role a little more," Tyus said. "I'm more comfortable."

After Tyus' short-lived departure from the program, he turned himself into a different player. And you wonder where the Gators would be right now if Tyus had not changed his mind.

"I try not to think about it," Boynton said.

Every once in awhile, it crosses your mind.

But not his.

"It was such a quick turnaround," he said, smiling, "I didn't realize I was gone. I'm really loving this team. We have a good chance to make some noise."

If the Gators, winners of four straight, are to make noise the rest of the way, they will need Tyus to continue playing the way he is. They don't necessarily need what they received from him last night (10-of-14 shooting), but they need a third scorer.

They can't count on Chandler Parsons making miracles every night. They know they'll get a little here and a little there from Vernon Macklin (12 points Wednesday night). The guy who was a candidate to be that third scorer might have been Dan Werner before he went into his offensive drought.

So it has to be Tyus.

"He wore us out," said Georgia coach Mark Fox. "We didn't stand up to him."

Against Georgia, Boynton and Erving Walker did their usual, scoring 21 points each and making more than half of their three-point attempts. But when Tyus is hot, the Gators are a formidable offensive team. Wednesday night was evidence as the Gators matched their high point total in SEC play in the 87-71 win.

Particularly impressive was a Tyus run that didn't involve any jump shots. Florida was struggling to put the dangerous 'Dogs away, up nine midway through the second half when Tyus slammed home a shot into the teeth of the Georgia big men.

The next time down the court, he scored on a lay-up and was fouled. The three-point play was followed by an alley-oop dunk off a perfect pass from Walker, one of the little man's 10 assists.

Just like that, it was 65-49 and all that was left was to get to the final score.

"He's gotten better," said Florida coach Billy Donovan. "He's really turned into a great mid-range jump shooter. The thing about Alex from his freshman and sophomore seasons to now is that he understands how hard he's going to have to play and how aggressive he has to be. Early in his career, he was really passive and laid back."

Tyus appears to be hitting his stride at the right time for this Florida team. The Gators just completed a four-game stretch with three games at home against teams they had to beat to get back into the SEC East race. After the 0-2 start, Florida fans knew these four games were an opportunity to get healthy.

Now, it will get interesting.

But at least the Gators are going to the floors of the SEC with a three-pronged weapon.

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