Florida redshirt sophomore forward Keith Stone met with coaches after being pulled early in UF’s season-opening win against Gardner-Webb on Monday.
Florida coach Mike White said he meets with players on a near daily basis to gauge where they are physically and mentally heading into practices and games. But the message from White to Stone centered around playing with higher energy and not having any preconceived notions of stat sheet numbers.
“They told me to stay positive, just go out there and play basketball and play without any thoughts,” Stone said.
Stone responded with more energy, and more points, during UF’s 108-68 win over UNF on Thursday. It’s a trend the Deerfield Beach native will look to continue tonight when the Gators host New Hampshire.
Stone said the meeting with coaches earlier in the week was a wake-up call for him.
“Because I know I’m a vet on the team now, I’ve got to provide energy,” Stone said. “I can’t just be in the back quiet and all that anymore.”
Stone had 14 points against UNF, with six points on a pair of 3-pointers and four more points coming on a pair of dunks. Defense fueled offense early in the second half when Stone got a steal near midcourt and took the ball the rest of the way for a breakaway dunk.
“Some nights I won’t be able to make a lot of baskets or I’ll be in foul trouble, but I know one thing I can control and that’s defense,” Stone said.
Consistency has been an issue early in Stone’s career. But at 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, Stone will play an important role for the Gators. Stone is the closest player the Gators have to a true power forward on the roster, and like his predecessor Justin Leon, possesses the shooting ability to stretch defenses.
But Stone needs to maintain a steady motor in order for UF coaches to keep him on the court for long stretches to match up with opposing power forwards.
White said he felt Stone played more clear-minded against UNF
“He played hard,” White said. “You could see his juices flowing defensively. And it’s more times than not when guys play clear minded you look at the box score and they usually play better — 14 points off not trying to get 14. It’s funny how it works.”
Who: No. 8 Florida Gators (2-0) vs. New Hampshire Wildcats (1-1)
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: O’Connell Center/Exactech Arena, Gainesville
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM850
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G KeVaughn Allen 6-2 Jr. 13.5 ppg. 5.0 rpg
G Chris Chiozza 6-0 Sr. 7.0 ppg;6.5 apg
G Egor Koulechov 6-5 GSr. 23.5 ppg 7.5 rpg
F Keith Stone 6-8 RSo. 8.5 ppg 2.5 rpg
C Kevarrius Hayes 6-9 Jr. 6.5 ppg;5.5 rpg
NEW HAMPSHIRE PROBABLE STARTERS
G Jordan Reed 6-0 Jr. 6.0 ppg 4.5 rpg
G Elijah Jordan 6-1 Fr. 6.5 ppg 4.0 apg
G Jacoby Armstrong 6-7 GSr. 13.5 ppg 1.5 rpg
F Tanner Leissner 6-7 Sr. 18.0 ppg 10.0 rpg
F Iba Camara 6-9 Sr. 11.0 ppg 8.0 rpg
Notes: Florida is hosting New Hampshire on campus as the first of four games in the Phil Knight Invitational. The Gators will travel to Portland, Ore., for the next three games, beginning on Thanksgiving night against Stanford. … Florida has started the season with back-to-back 100-point games for the first time in program history. The last time Florida posted back-to-back 100 point games was in December of 2003 (a 101-84 win over Northeastern on Dec. 22, 2003, followed by a 109-63 win over Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 27). … Florida is averaging 44.5 bench points in its first two games. … Freshman guard Deaundrae Ballard is averaging 13 points per game off the bench, while junior guard Jalen Hudson scored 12 points in 22 minutes off the bench against UNF. … Florida has made 25 3-pointers in its first two games while shooting 48.2 percent (26-54) from beyond the arc. … Florida is 3-0 all-time against New Hampshire. … The Wildcats return four starters from a team that finished 20-12 and 10-6 in the America East last season. … New Hampshire coach Bill Herrion, who led Drexel to three NCAA Tournament appearances from 1994-96, is 393-376 in 27 seasons as a head coach .
— Kevin Brockway