Story written by Austin Reier
Just 12 days have passed since the Florida Gators basketball team was edged by the George Washington Colonials in the quarterfinals of the National Invitational Tournament. Gator’s head coach Mike White put a bow on the season Monday with his end of year press conference and mapped out his plans for the team going forward.
Though the Gators are still finding its identity as a team, with a lot of new faces surrounding the program, the emergence of junior guard Kasey Hill, has provided some much needed excitement going into the 2016 season.
Hill started his career with the Gators as a fast-paced true point guard that came off the bench to give then senior guard Scottie Wilbekin, a breather. The expectations for Hill as a freshman were high as he came to Gainesville being a top 10 recruit in the 2013 class.
Turnovers, missed free throws, and an inability to finish at the rim plagued the young guard from Clermont early on.
For much of his junior season, Hill came off the bench behind sophomore guard Chris Chiozza, and provided a spark to the last part of head coach Mike White’s first year at Florida.
Playing just 26 minutes against Arkansas in the SEC Tournament, Hill poured in 18 points and had five assists. Hill then scored his season high of 18 points in a loss to the No. 1 seeded Texas A&M Aggies.
Hill continued his impressive play in the National Invitational Tournament as he dropped 14 points in the first round, 15 in the second and 12 in the quarterfinal.
Hill played under 30 minutes for the first 33 games of the season, but capped off the season playing 30, 32 and 33 minutes. These minutes were earned, not given by Mike White and staff.
Not only have Hill’s minutes gone up, but his confidence has to. Being a finisher at the rim is something that has been holding Hill back from taking over as the next leader at point guard at Florida. On Monday, Mike White said that Kasey Hill, “Finished at a high level,” when asked about his NIT performance.
Florida’s last two Final Four teams were lead by Taurean Green and Scottie Wilbekin. Both guards were in their senior seasons and both averaged just over 13 points.
Green led the Gators to back-to-back National Championships, averaging 13.3 points in both years. Can Hill make it to the magic number 13? He averaged just 9.1 points per game in the 2015-2016 season, but during NIT play—arguably the best stretch of the season for him– Hill averaged 13.6 points.
Granted, Hill does not quite have the pieces that the other great Florida teams had, but if he can continue to play at a high level, Coach White, will have a leader at a position that could be a catalyst to success for the young careers of players such as freshman star KeVaughn Allen and big-man Kevarrius Hayes.
White’s first year at Florida was not a success by his standards, “It is not a success when you don’t make the NCAA Tournament at the University of Florida,” he said. However, with the emergence of Hill and more players coming into their own, the Gator basketball team is taking the necessary steps for a successful year going into a season that will hold only higher expectations than the previous one.