Spidey is back, and he isn’t Tobey Mcguire dressed in tights.
Nope, it’s the 6’9 suddenly shot-swatting super hero, Kevarrius Hayes — and he swung back just in time.
“Kevarrius is back to being one of the hardest playing guys in the league,” Coach Mike White said. “He’s playing with his mojo again, and that’s another factor.”
Hayes’ return – – – or return to form – – – has been a huge factor in the resurgence of a once slumping Gators team that has leapt out to a 3-0 conference start.
Aptly nicknamed “Spidey” for his boundless energy, effort and court coverage, Hayes more closely resembled The Invisible Man early in the season. And when his Gators lost 4 of 5 games and saw its top-5 ranking fall off the map, perhaps nothing was more confounding to players, fans, coaches … and himself… than Spidey’s disappearance.
During the frustrating stretch, Hayes managed less than 3 points per game and barely a block per outing. But Hayes didn’t quite seem himself before . . . even when the Gators were winning. Perhaps no one noticed because of the results— no one except the coaching staff.
“Earlier in the year — that’s on me as much as anybody,” White revealed. “We had, for the majority of the game, Kevarrius playing on the perimeter and we were doing a lot of 5-out stuff”.
“5-out” is exactly as it sounds — all 5 players out on the perimeter. And when the hot-shooting Gators were pouring in points and rattling off wins, 5-out was “in”. But even then White recognized the need for an interior presence, and the importance of jumpstart his stalling center.
“We came to the conclusion a few games into the season that although we scored a bunch, it may not be in our best interest,” White said.
And so the 5-out has more recently and more frequently become 4-out, with Spidey swinging back into position.
“We are posting him more — he is playing more in his comfort zone,” White said. “And he has made a big jump in his offensive development in the past month”.
He certainly has, and that is not just coach speak. During the last four games Hayes has averaged 8.2ppg, 6.2 rpg and recorded 11 blocks.
And not everything in Spidey’s return reflects in the stat sheet.
“He might get two blocks, but he might alter three more that our guys see,” White said. “And he may not get 12 rebounds, but he gets six and he’s had 15 big time block outs that allow someone else to get the rebound”.
His teammates have seen the change, both those who were awaiting Spidey’s return and those new players who hadn’t yet witnessed his superhero attributes.
“Kevarrius really played like people told me — that’s the Kevarrius they know,” Egor Koulechov said. “That’s how he plays. He blocks shots. He gets steals, tips …. He is all over on defense. That makes a big difference for us.”
His teammates have not only seen, but have also heard.
“Kavarrius is our most vocal guy,” White said. “And so when he is playing well I think it gives our guys confidence”.
And perhaps there was nothing this Gators team needed more than confidence. And who wouldn’t be confident when Spidey has your back?