Notebook: Kadji reflects on time at UF
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 8:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 8:03 p.m.
AUSTIN, Texas — Kenny Kadji said he's learned from his mistakes.
The former Florida Gator turned Miami Hurricane senior forward is finishing his career on college basketball's biggest stage.
Kadji will be playing in the same arena as the Gators when No. 2-seed Miami opens its NCAA Tournament play on Friday afternoon against No. 15-seed Pacific. The 6-foot-11 Kadji said he had a chance to see some of his Florida teammates before workouts Thursday at the Frank Erwin Center.
“I don't have anything but respect for them,” Kadji said.
Kadji transferred from Florida to Miami in the summer of 2010 after sitting out most of his sophomore season due to back problems. He underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.
With Alex Tyus, Vernon Macklin and Chandler Parsons in front of him, Kadji said he knew playing time would be hard to come by at Florida had he returned for his junior season. He met with Florida coach Billy Donovan, who agreed with his assessment.
“I needed a fresh start, something new,” Kadji said. “I didn't do much to expect him to play me or give me another chance. He was very understanding of what was going on.”
Conditioning problems contributed to Kadji's back problems. Kadji said he lost 20 pounds when he first arrived at Miami and has kept the weight off, which has helped with his quickness.
“People deserved to play in front of me,” Kadji said. “I was just like, ‘OK, this was a great experience for me for two years. Let me take this to another place and not make the mistakes.' I think I did that here in Miami.”
At Miami, Kadji has blossomed into an All-ACC player and key part of the Hurricanes' magical season. He buried a game-winning 3-pointer in Miami's 45-43 win at Clemson last month. Kadji has essentially become Miami's version of Erik Murphy, a stretch power forward capable of opening up the floor. He's averaging 13.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting 35.7 percent from 3-point range.
“I've been able to do more things here at Miami, you know, just playing my game, shoot the ball more, put the ball on the floor and get in the post,” Kadji said. “I think that at Florida my role was a little bit different. I had to be more of a defensive guy, and I was playing more in the post.”
Kadji's teammates said the 24-year-old has been valuable this season.
“Everything he does on the court is great for us,” Miami point guard Shane Larkin said. “Off the court, he's a funny guy. He has great spirit.”
Prather downplays shining moment
It's been more than a year since Florida junior Casey Prather broke out on a national stage, scoring a career-high 14 points in UF's NCAA Tournament opening win last season against Virginia.
“I never really think about it,” Prather said. “I think about the next game. We have another opportunity to go out there and compete. That's what I'm really focused on.”
Donovan said he felt that performance helped Prather's confidence carry over into his junior season. Though he's missed eight games this season with a concussion and ankle sprain, the 6-foot-6 Prather is averaging 6.1 points and 3.7 rebounds off the bench.
“It helped him with his confidence,” Florida junior center Patric Young said. “Just for him to go out there and play the way I know he's capable of playing, is just a huge relief because he's been doing it so much in practice for us.”
Kurtz banged up
Here's an idea of how hard Florida has been practicing this week. Walk-on sophomore Jacob Kurtz became the latest of UF's walking wounded when he wound up with nine stitches over his forehead.
Kurtz took an elbow from Florida transfer center Damontre Harris while driving to the basket during Wednesday's practice. The 6-foot-5 Oviedo native said he'll be OK for Florida's game against Northwestern State
“Everyone is working hard this time of year, and we're not any different,” Kurtz said. “We're just coming together.”
SEC strong enough?
Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton was asked if he was concerned about the strength of the Southeastern Conference impacting the Gators in the NCAA Tournament.
The SEC entered January ninth in conference RPI, and only three teams (Florida, Mississippi, Missouri) made the NCAA Tournament. In addition, both Kentucky and Tennessee have already been knocked out of the NIT.
“We play teams in other conferences,” Boynton said. “Those teams, losing, I don't think it has anything to do with us.”
At the end of Florida's open shootaround, a bat flew from the rafters from the Frank Erwin Center onto the court.
It scattered Florida players, including junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who seemed the most spooked by the black-winged rodent.
Other highlights of the open shoot-around included Young hitting a 3-pointer at the final horn. Florida worked mostly on conditioning and free-throw shooting during the hour-long open session.
Young said he did just his “normal routine” this week on free-throw shooting. He's shooting just 49.6 percent from the free-throw line (59 of 119) and made just 1 of 4 free throws in UF's SEC Tournament final loss to Ole Miss. … Donovan is 9-3 in opening-round NCAA Tournament games with the losses coming against Creighton (2002, 83-82, double overtime), Manhattan (2004, 75-60) and BYU (2010, 99-92 double overtime).