The Florida Gators open the 2017-18 season against Gardner-Webb on Monday, and there will be a lot of new faces on the court, but KeVaughn Allen is one player who needs no introduction.
Allen had a breakout freshman season and went on to lead the Gators in scoring as a sophomore with 14 points per game and a team-leading 78 makes from beyond the arc on a .370 three-point percentage.
Now, heading into his third season, he has received a ton of praise around the country. He was named to Preseason First Team All-SEC after finishing with first team honors last season and currently sits on preseason watch lists for the Jerry West Award, Naismith Award and Oscar Robertson Trophy.
“He can really score it,” said head coach Mike White on reasoning for all the praise. “He can make open shots. He can create his own shots. He can make difficult shots. And in his short career here, he’s made timely shots, big shots.”
While the rest of the country knows Allen for his offensive abilities, White thinks he has a chance to make some noise on the other end of the court as well. It looks like the Gators could be a bit shorthanded on defense this season, and with that, it is more important than ever for the veterans to step up.
White praised Allen for his defensive effort in the exhibition games, and he expects that same type of play to carry over into the regular season.
“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,” White said. “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.”
Last season, Allen was the premiere guy on offense, and he could be again this season, but he’ll have a little more competition. The Gators brought in a lot of offensive weapons including transfers Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov and freshmen Mike Okauru and Deaundrae Ballard.
With so much potential on offense, it could mean some big nights in the box score for Allen and some nights where he’s needed more for assists and defense.
Allen has always been about doing what is in the best interest of the team, so that is just fine with him.
“I think if KeVaughn really wanted to and if we thought it was in the best interest of this team to get him 20 or 25 every night [he would],” White said. “I’m not sure he would get 25, who knows, that’s hard to get at this level. He could score a lot more than he averaged last year and what he could potentially average this year if it were all about him scoring. But he’s also got a lot of humility, and he’s a kid that’s all about trying to win games than how many points he’s going to score.”
While Allen continues to be the recipient of respect in the college basketball world, he is also gaining respect from his coaches and teammates. His consistency and maturity improved this offseason, and that is showing up in his game.
The Gators saw glimpses of that in the exhibitions, but the true test begins next week.