Florida enters the 2011-12 basketball season with one of the most talented backcourts in the nation, and the two returning starters at guard both received preseason All-SEC recognition from the media on Monday.
Senior point guard Erving Walker and junior shooting guard Kenny Boynton were both named to the media’s preseason All-SEC second team. Eleven players were given preseason recognition by the media, and Florida had the third-most players on the team with two.
Kentucky had a league-high four players named to the preseason squads, while Vanderbilt had three and Alabama and Mississippi State each had one.
While head coach Billy Donovan is confident in the ability of his returning backcourt duo, he said his Florida team that is replacing three starters has a lot more room for growth.
“This is a team that has a lot to develop going forward,” Donovan said. “Although Erving and Kenny have played a lot together, there’s going to be three other guys on the floor they have never really played together and vice versa. Our chemistry on the court has to be something that gets developed very quickly because of the strength of our schedule and how competitive it is early on. That’s going to take a lot of work.”
Individually, Walker has scored 1,330 points in his career (good for 24th all-time at Florida) and Boynton has scored 1,001.
Boynton has been a streaky shooter at times, but he worked on his shot a lot in the offseason, and Donovan said he’s gotten it to go in more consistently.
“I think he had a great summer. He shot the ball very well in our preseason,” Donovan said. “With regards to him shooting the ball, I always want him to maintain a level of aggressiveness. He has gotten better at understanding shot selection.”
In addition to the work he put in on his shot over the summer, Boynton also said he stayed aggressive attacking the lane over the summer, and he’s gotten better finishing around the rim with his left hand.
However, scoring aside, what Boynton brings to the table that makes him one of the Southeastern Conference’s best players is his ability to defend as well as he scores.
“I think the one thing that is really underrated about him is what he can do defensively. He’s a very good defender,” Donovan said. “If you look at all the games that we’ve played – he’s guarded every team’s best player on the perimeter and done a good job of that.
“I know his reputation coming out of high school was that of a scorer. Part of the reason why I recruited Kenny so hard and wanted him here at Florida was because a lot of times when you see guys that can score like Kenny can, they totally rest on defense and have no interest. That’s the great thing about him. He has a great motor on the defensive end. He wants to win and is highly competitive. He has been a consistent, reliable guy that I know is going to go out there and give me everything he has.”
As far as Walker is concerned, Donovan wants to see his senior point guard take a more active role as a distributor in an offense that boasts more scoring pop from outside than Florida has had the past few years.
Donovan’s goal for Walker is to lead the league in assists, and Walker has taken to that task wholeheartedly.
“I could see Erving Walker, if he’s playing the position like I’d like him to play, I could see him in a game have eight points, eight assists and one turnover and we shoot a high percentage,” Donovan said. “I could also see some games where he scores 20 points because we needed that.
“I think that from game-to-game it’s always going to change. I want him to make all the other guys on the floor better. If you have a Bradley Beal, a Mike Rosario and a Kenny Boynton and you’ve got Patric Young on the floor with yourself, there’s a lot that goes into making everyone working cohesively.”
Florida’s upperclassmen duo in the backcourt will be counted on to provide some leadership on a team that will feature a lot of youth at some of the other positions on the court.
The two have a special bond, but they’ve done their best throughout the offseason and the preseason to promote that same type of bond between other players on the team.
“Me and Kenny have got a special relationship, but I would say everybody we all hang out a lot,” Walker said. “Everybody’s like a family and a little brotherhood we’ve got. We embrace each other and it’s just fun to be around those guys.”
Media picks Gators to finish 3rd in SEC
With the preseason media All-SEC selections coming out Monday, the media’s picks for the league champion also came out.
Kentucky was an overwhelming favorite to win the league, and Florida finished third in the preseason polling in the SEC behind Vanderbilt.
The Wildcats received 18 first-place votes and 282 points overall, while Vanderbilt finished with four first-place votes and 265 points and Florida finished with one first-place vote and 235 points.
Below is a complete listing of the media’s predicted order of finish in the SEC and the preseason All-SEC selections.
Preseason Media Poll Pts
*First-Place Votes in Parentheses
First Team All-SEC
JaMychal Green, Alabama – F, 6-8, 228, Sr., Montgomery, Ala.
Terrence Jones, Kentucky – F, 6-9, 252, So., Portland, Ore.
Dee Bost, Mississippi State – G, 6-2, 176, Sr. , Concord, N.C.
John Jenkins, Vanderbilt – G, 6-4, 220, Jr., Hendersonville, Tenn.
Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt – G/F, 6-7, 225, Sr., Norrkoping, Sweden
Second Team All-SEC
Anthony Davis, Kentucky – F, 6-10, 220, Fr., Chicago, Ill.
Doron Lamb, Kentucky – G, 6-4, 210, So., Queens, N.Y.
Darius Miller, Kentucky – G, 6-8, 235, Sr., Maysville, Ky.
Kenny Boynton, Florida – G, 6-2, 189, Jr., Pompano Beach, Fla.
Erving Walker, Florida – G, 5-8, 177, Sr., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt – C, 6-11, 255, Sr., Benin City, Nigeria