Florida junior guard KeVaughn Allen has always let his play on the court speak for him.
While the 6-foot-2 Allen has amassed close to 1,000 points in two seasons as a starter for the Gators, the North Little Rock, Ark., native is not one to trumpet his own accomplishments. Allen’s shy-by-nature personality does not jibe in a sports era in which self-promotion through social media and reality television has made a comeback.
“Most players in the SEC and the whole country, are more people persons as you would say,” Florida senior point guard Chris Chiozza said. “But KeVaughn, if he doesn’t know you, he’s not going to talk to you. And he’s not very expressive. I mean, I don’t really express that much emotion either. I think we are probably two of the most calmest guys you are going to see on the court. No matter what we do we’re going to have a straight face and just look like we’re out there handling business.”
Call Allen Florida’s silent scorer. As the Gators open their third season under coach Mike White tonight vs. Gardner-Webb, Allen will once again play a pivotal role. As UF’s returning leading scorer at 14 points per game last season, Allen at times displayed the ability to take over games with his offensive prowess. Allen scored 20 or more points eight times last season, including a career-high 35 points in UF’s Sweet 16 win over Wisconsin. But there were also 12 games last season in which Allen failed to reach double figures in points.
Becoming a more consistent scorer and more complete player on both ends of the floor is a goal for Allen entering his junior season.
“I’ve been just playing hard, working on all the areas of my game as far as just playing defense, just doing the little things, boxing out,” Allen said.
White said Allen played “as hard as I’ve ever seen him play” in UF’s final exhibition tuneup last week against Tampa. Allen got a rousing ovation from the entire bench during the first half of the Tampa game when he dove into the scorer’s table while hustling for a loose ball.
“In his short career here, he’s made timely shots, big shots,” White said. “I think what’s underrated a little bit, and maybe some see as we’re seeing it more and more, is the durability and improvement on the defensive end, and hopefully a continued improvement on the glass, as he’s helping us more and more there. He’s become more and more confident too. He’s maturing himself and I’m really pleased where he is right now.”
An area where Allen could help more this season is backing up Chiozza at point guard. With Chiozza out for two exhibition games with a shoulder injury, Allen had 17 points and six assists against Jacksonville and 11 points and four assists against Tampa. Given Allen’s size, point guard could be his calling if he wants to play at the next level. Allen said he’s growing more accustomed to running the offense when needed.
“From now when we first started practicing, I feel like I’ve gotten better, just reading the defenses better,” Allen said.
Another area for growth for Allen is taking the ball to the basket when perimeter shots aren’t falling. Allen shot 37 percent from 3-point range last season, but as an 88.3 percent free-throw shooter last season, can be just as an effective scorer by drawing contact in the lane. One of Allen’s best games last season came in UF’s 81-66 home win over South Carolina, when he scored more than half of his 26 points at the free-throw line, making 13 in 14 trips. But Allen’s 103 trips to the free-throw line as a sophomore were down slightly from his 117 trips as a freshman.
“Against different defenses, guys need to pick their spots, and understand how to attack different defenses and KeVaughn has progressed in that area,” White said. “We hope that he continues to do so. But yeah, at times he’s a terrific driver of the basketball, I think he’s embraced contact more as of late than he did earlier in his career and I think it’s natural. He’s gotten physically tougher.”
Allen is coming into his junior year with his share of preseason accolades. For the second straight year, Allen is a preseason All-SEC first team selection and is also on the watch list for a pair of prestigious national awards — The Naismith Trophy and the Oscar Robertson Trophy.
But White said he still views Allen as one of the most underappreciated players in college basketball.
“Maybe because he’s quiet,” White said. “I’m not sure. But he’s had huge games and against good teams and he’s still got a couple of years left to continue to build his brand. He’s a pleasure to coach every day.”
Who: No. 8 Florida Gators (0-0) vs. Gardner-Webb Bulldogs (0-1)
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: O’Connell Center/Exactech Arena, Gainesville
Radio: AM-850, 103.7-FM
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G KeVaughn Allen, 6-2, So. 14.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg
G Jalen Hudson, 6-6, RJr., 8.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg
G Egor Koulechov, 6-5, GSr., 18.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg
F Keith Stone, 6-8, RSo., 3.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg
C Kevarrius Hayes, 6-9, Jr., 6.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg
GARDNER-WEBB PROBABLE STARTERS
G David Efianayi, 6-2, Jr., 9.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
G Christian Turner, 5-10, So., 2.0 ppg, 1.0 apg
G Jamaal Robateau, 6-5, Jr., 3.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
F D.J. Lester, 6-6, Jr., 10.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg
C L’Hassane Niangane, 6-10, Sr., 5.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg
Notes: Florida is looking to extend its streak of 26 straight season-opening wins. … The Gators are ranked in the preseason top 10 for the 12th time in the last 17 seasons. … Florida senior point guard Chris Chiozza (sprained shoulder) will be a game-time decision. … If Chiozza is out, Allen will start at point with freshman point guard Michael Okauru backing him up. Okauru had 11 points on 5 of 6 shooting in UF’s 94-57 exhibition win over Tampa on Nov. 5. … Gardner-Webb suffered a 77-45 loss to No. 13 Miami in its season opener on Friday night. … The Bulldogs shot just 31.7 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range.
— Kevin Brockway