Florida is hopeful that sophomore center Kevarrius Hayes will continue to develop into an important contributor for the Gators this season.
Off the court, Hayes gained valuable experience over the summer that will serve him well beyond his basketball career. Hayes was one of two Florida athletes named to the SEC’s student-athlete advisory committee, which met with SEC officials to discuss pressures college athletes face when it comes to time management balancing athletics and academics.
“It was a good honor, that they would honor me to be one of the representatives to go there as a whole for University of Florida athletes,” Hayes said. “Even though I’m only a sophomore now, they still trusted me to go there,”
Hayes came to UF as a natural leader, having served as class president at Live Oak High School for all four of his years there. But Hayes said the experience at the SEC’s offices in Birmingham, Ala., was enlightening.
“Mostly, we talked about time schedule, kind of like what we considered adequate practice hours for teams that normally practice in a day or a week,” Hayes said.
Currently, the NCAA limits practice time for Division I athletes to a maximum of 20 hours per week, but there are loopholes for travel time, rehabilitation time and workouts not deemed “required” by coaches.
“I’m actually pretty happy with the practice hours,” Hayes said. “I feel like it’s enough. You always want to practice harder than you play the game, so that way the game seems a little bit easier. I feel four hours (per day) is pretty much enough time to be doing anything.”
Florida coach Mike White said that Hayes had an excellent summer working on all facets of his game. In UF’s preseason game last week against Eckerd College, Hayes got into some early foul trouble, but still finished 9 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 12 minutes.
The 6-foot-9 Hayes is UF’s best interior defender and showed promise late last season when starting UF center John Egbunu sat out the last two games of last season with a torn ligament in his thumb. In the two starts replacing Egbunu at the end of last season, Hayes averaged 14 points and 4.5 rebounds.
“That was kind of like being thrown into the pit,” Hayes said. “It was kind of later in the season so I had got some experience, but having to take on a bigger role, it was a true test and I felt like I did OK.”
Hayes took that confidence into the offseason while rounding out all aspects of his game.
“I feel like mostly I’ve improved my strength so I can withstand some of the beatings down there in the post that I did in the first year,” Hayes said. “And also working on my game in general, not only offense but improving my defense, moving a lot quicker.”
White hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing Egbunu and Hayes together across the frontline in an effort to match up against physical frontlines that the Gators could encounter throughout the season.
“Big John it’s hard to stop him as it is, and I guess as relentless as I am, it would be a great combo,” Hayes said.