Donovan hopes Boynton emerges as leader


Florida guard Kenny Boynton answers questions during basketball media day on Wednesday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 9:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 9:36 p.m.

Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton didn't sidestep the question.

Asked if he expected to stay at UF for all four years, the former five-star recruit from Pompano Beach responded quickly.

“Honestly, I didn't,” Boynton said at Florida basketball media day. “I never thought that far ahead. But I'm here.”

Boynton's return is a big storyline heading into Florida's 2012-13 men's basketball season. He was UF's leading scorer last season at 15.9 points per game. But as one of three starters returning from a team that reached the Elite Eight last season, Boynton will be counted on more this season for leadership and intangibles.

“Hopefully he can step up into more of a leadership role for us,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “Kenny has been one those kind of quiet leaders where he doesn't say a whole lot. I think a lot of times it's done through how he performs and how hard he plays.”

In fact, Donovan is concerned about thrusting too many leadership responsibilities on Boynton too early. He saw what happened when he tried to get soft-spoken Erving Walker to hold that mantle last season.

“It probably really wasn't reflective of (Erving's) personality,” Donovan said. “So probably I have to be a little bit careful with Kenny. I'd like to see him obviously be more vocal, but at the same point I don't want to put him in a situation where he's uncomfortable being who he has been or who he wants to be”

When Boynton arrived on UF's campus in 2009, he was labeled as a can't-miss prospect and a potential one-and-done player. Boynton, who has started at UF since his freshman year, contemplated putting his name in the NBA draft last April. But after talking with his family, Boynton decided against it.

“It was the right decision,” Boynton said. “I think if I came back this year, it would better my abilities of passing, assists. … We definitely had a good team coming into this year and that factored into it also.”

At 1,589 career points, Boynton is currently eighth on UF's all-time scoring list. He's within 501 points of breaking Ronnie Montgomery's record of 2,090 and becoming UF's all-time scoring king. Boynton's said the scoring record didn't play a factor in his decision to return.

“I've heard it,” Boynton said of the record. “I think if it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, I'm just going to go out there and play.”

The 6-foot-2 Boynton said his main goal during the offseason was to work to become a more well-rounded player. He worked over the summer in Las Vegas with a group of players that included former Xavier standout Tu Holloway, former Georgetown standout Hollis Thompson and former Syracuse standout Dion Waiters.

“It helped me,” Boynton said. “Coming in every day with guys like that, seeing how hard they worked, the games were physical and it helped a lot.”

Offensively, Boynton said he worked on his midrange game and finishing at the rim.

“Overall, my midrange game has gotten way better than it has been,” Boynton said. “On defense, I'm calling it out, this is going to be my best year.”

Boynton got off to a hot start last season, averaging 19.5 ppg through UF's first 15 games last season. But in SEC and NCAA Tournament games, Boynton's scoring average dipped to 12.9 ppg. He shot 46.7 percent from 3-point range in non-conference games and 35.8 percent from the same distance in SEC and NCAA Tournament games,

“That's just staying in the gym,” Boynton said. “I think I'm going to try to stay in the gym as much as possible this year and just get a lot of repetitions, just prepare my body for the middle of the season when my body gets tired.”

Boynton also is prepared to play more point guard, if needed, though Donovan hinted that junior Gainesville native Scottie Wilbekin will get the first crack to replace Walker as UF's starting point guard.

Boynton is aware that playing the point will be his best chance to impress NBA scouts.

“There are a lot of scorers in the world,” Boynton said. “At my size, I have to be a point guard at the next level. So basically it's just decision-making, making better decisions on the court.”

Since Boynton and fellow senior Erik Murphy have arrived on campus, Florida has reached three straight NCAA Tournaments. The Gators have reached the Elite Eight in each of the past two seasons, with leads in the second half of both Elite Eight losses.

That, Boynton says, also motivated his return to UF.

“When you have one more shot at it, there's only one way,” Boynton said. “You're only thinking championship. You want to go out as a winner. That's one of the reasons I came back. So I'm going to try my best personally and to push this team to get deep into the tournament this year.”

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