Injured UF big guys remain in holding pattern

Florida forward Kevarrius Hayes dunks the ball over Loyola of Chicago guard Donte Ingram in the Dec. 6 game. Hayes will continue to carry the load down low. (AP Photo/Ron Irby)

Junior center Kevarrius Hayes and redshirt sophomore Keith Stone both stepped up in UF’s 83-66 win over No. 11 Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

But it doesn’t look like the duo will get more help inside anytime soon.

Florida coach Mike White said Thursday that the status of senior center John Egbunu and freshman center Isaiah Stokes remains unchanged with both coming off ACL surgeries. The 6-foot-8 Stokes is due back by late January, while the 6-11 Egbunu could be back by late January or possibly later depending on how his rehab progresses.

“Stokes yesterday said he’s anxious to play some moon ball today, so we’ll get him up and down the floor,” White said. “For John, it’s individual workouts. I don’t know the time frame right now. I’m assuming it’s the same thing from (trainer) Duke (Werner). The last time we talked about it, he said late this month.”

Freshman 6-9 forward Chase Johnson has been out since suffering his second concussion in early December and remains in concussion protocol.

“We’re just being very, very cautious with him and making sure that he’s at 100-percent strength before he goes out there and competes in practice,” White said. “He’s gone through some individuals, though. He’s gotten some of his wind back and he’s explosive and he’s working hard through the concussion protocol.”

Stone scored a career-high 18 points in UF’s win at Texas A&M, while Hayes had a strong all-around floor game with eight points, seven rebounds, five blocked shots and four blocks.

“I thought it was his best game,” White said of Hayes. “He played with a ton of energy and physicality for him. He’s not a guy who is just going to move bodies, of course, but to do his best to hold his own against elite girth, the 1-2 punch that Texas A&M presents, he gave everything he could. And he made good decisions with the basketball, altered some shots. He’s playing his best basketball right now. That’s what we’re looking for. If we can get that performance every night from Kevarrius, we’d certainly be a better team.”

White said Hayes’ improved play of late has been a result of moving him closer to the basket after playing him in the high post on offense earlier this season.

“He’s a little more comfortable,” White said. “He’s not getting a ton of post touches but he’s touching it. I don’t think as much is being asked of him that’s out of his comfort zone and he’s able to focus on what he’s good at. I think he feels really good about the way he’s playing right now.”

Other notes:

— White said Egor Koulechov’s recent hot stretch shooting the basketball (7 of 10 from 3-point range over his last two games) has been in part due to getting some rest over Christmas break after dealing with plantar fasciitis. Koulechov has been in a 5-for-29 slump from 3-point range entering SEC play. “We saw it in practices leading up to the last couple (of games),” White said. “He’s trying to become more efficient. We’re trying to get him easier looks, (point guard) Chris (Chiozza) is terrific with that, of course. Balance with him is a key. He got off to such a hot start and when you are making shots at the clip he was making them early in the season, you can get away with making some hard ones because you are in such a good rhythm and then you can fall into a trap of continuing to shoot hard ones when you are not shooting it as well. I think some of that affected him negatively, and I think he’s doing a better job of picking his spots, shooting good ones and showing us all how good of a shooter he is. When he’s open and his feet are set, he’s one of the best shooters in the country.”

— White said Chiozza should be in the conversation as one of the best point guards in the country. Chiozza had another stellar game with 12 points and nine assists Tuesday night against Texas A&M. “They’re still underestimating how important he is to this team, and how good a player he is, both offensively and defensively; from a toughness standpoint, from an accountability, dependability standpoint, he’s in a good rhythm,” White said. “He’s playing with the highest level of confidence since he’s been in college. He has really taken this team and led this team so far.”

— Coming off his career-best 18 point game against Texas A&M, Stone arrived to UF’s media availability on Thursday via skateboard. The 6-foot-8 Stone said he began skateboarding last year as way to get around campus quicker, “It’s not that hard to learn,” Stone said. Asked how Coach White feels about him skateboarding, Stone replied: “As long as I don’t fall or hurt nothing, he’s perfectly fine with it.” But Stone admits sometimes it can be scary going down hills. “I think I might fall if I hit a rock or something,” Stone said. “But I get to class quicker.”

 — White has named UF’s Children’s Hospital at Shands as his charity in ESPN’s Lexus Infiniti coaches charity challenge. Voting information can be found here.





  1. As a Gator fan, it’s great to watch players like Chiozza grow and evolve in a Gator uniform. To watch them progress and see the difference in their play each season is special (especially when they stay here 4 years, like Cheese has done). And none was more special than the 2014 Final Four team, which was Billy D’s last Final Four team in Hogtown. But Cheese has been a great player to watch develop and get better each season.
    Go Gators!