Kenny Boynton calls it for the Gators

Kenny Boynton (6-2, 180, Plantation, FL American Heritage, #13 ESPN Top 100) is going to be a Florida Gator. Just four days after his official visit to the Florida campus, Boynton called it for the Gators on ESPNU today, ending speculation that it was going to be a signing day decision between Florida, Duke, Texas and Georgia Tech.

“I can only choose one school and the college I’m going to be attending is the University of Florida. “Florida always had the upper hand because they were the home state program. They’ve been on me from day one. They were actually the first letter I ever received from a college.”

Although there were four teams on Boynton’s final list of schools, the stretch run was pretty much a battle between Florida and Duke. Boynton’s high school coach, Danny Herz, said that it was a total staff effort by Florida coach Billy Donovan that landed Boynton.

“Coach Donovan did a great job recruiting him,” said Herz. “It’s hard to beat Coach Donovan when he wants an in-state kid and they did a fantastic job of recruiting him … not just Coach Donovan but his entire staff. All of them had a part in this and they did everything the right way. The most important thing is that Kenny is happy with his decision.”

Considered by most experts the best basketball prospect from the state since the 1990s when the state produced future NBA stars Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, Boynton’s resume includes a state 6A championship in 2006 at Pompano Beach Ely and back-to-back AAU Junior National championships (2007-08) for Fort Lauderdale-based Team Breakdown.

ESPN’s resident basketball recruiting expert Bob Gibbons considers Boynton a significant addition to the Florida recruiting class of 2009. Gibbons, who has watched Boynton develop from a kid with great potential into perhaps the best all-around guard in the country in 2008, says that Boynton is an impact player who saves his best for the big games and has the all-around ability to affect the outcome in any one of several different ways.

“He’s a winner … one of those kids with a refuse to lose attitude,” said Gibbons. “He loves the ball in his hands at crunch time. He has the confidence, poise and ability to make big plays. If you had to pick one kid of the summer of 2008 it would have to be Kenny Boynton. He made Team Breakdown the best summer team in the nation. They won the big events because of his consistent ability to make the right plays. Whether it was scoring, finding the right teammate or making a steal. Most look at him as a shooter, but in reality he is a skilled all around player who is capable of playing either guard position at the next level.”

Adds Matt Ramker, whose Florida Rams AAU program has produced ex-Gators Taurean Green and Chris Richard and current Gators Kenny Kadji and Ray Shipman, “I think he’s one of the top guards ever out of the state of Florida. He’s a very tough kid on both sides of the floor and he’s a team player whose emphasis is always on winning. He’s a very coachable kid and he’s getting into the right situation with Coach Donovan. Coach Donovan will definitely get the best out of Kenny.”

Boynton has made a reputation as a shooter who is willing to take and make big shots when a game is on the line. In the last two years, Herz has watched his protégé grow into a complete player who is far more concerned with making his teammates better than how many points he scores.

“It’s a sign of his growing maturity,” said Herz. “The biggest compliment you could ever give somebody on or off the court is that you have the ability to make your teammates better and that is what Kenny is today.

“He has always been a good scorer, but now he’s a good player in every phase of the game. He’s in the gym early morning every morning … he never misses. He wants to get better, but more important, he knows he has to get better. He’s pretty darn good right now but he isn’t a finished product and he is willing to do all the hard work it takes to get there. And here is where you see the maturity. He sets the example for everyone on the team and he does everything he can to help his teammates become better players, too.”

Gibbons, whose Tournament of Champions AAU event in Chapel Hill has long been considered one of the best talent showcases every Memorial Day weekend, has watched how Boynton has developed into the kind of player that elevates the play of everyone around him.

“I’ve watched him make the progression from a shooter and scorer to a gifted all-around player,” said Gibbons. “I’ve had him at NBA [Players Development Camp] the last couple of years and I’ve watched him play at a couple of other major events each year. My last impression was at the AAU Junior Nationals in Orlando. He was injured a couple of games and Team Breakdown was a different team when he was out. When he came back they were unbeatable. Everybody got better the moment he stepped on the court.”

The area where Boynton has shown the greatest growth has been on the defensive end. He was a good defensive player when he came to American Heritage. He’s turned into a pit bull defender in the last two years, a lock down guy willing to take on anyone, any size at any spot on the court.

“We’ve watched him grow physically into a guy that is serious about his body and doing everything he can to become the best possible player he can be,” said Herz. “He has grown mentally into a player that studies the game and he’s more unselfish than ever before. He wants everyone around him to be better.

“Where he’s really made the jump is on defense, though. He wants to defend. He takes pride in it. He wants to shut you down. He takes as much pride now in his defense as he does in his ability to score, and as you know, he’s a pretty darn good scorer.”

Boynton joins Erik Murphy (6-11, 220, Southborough, MA St. Mark’s School, #24 ESPN Top 100) and Deshawn Painter (6-9, 215, Chatham, VA Hargrave Military, #36 ESPN Top 100) in Florida’s Class of 2009, which will likely be ranked among the nation’s top five classes.

Boynton also joins former American Heritage teammate Eloy Vargas at Florida. Vargas is a 6-10 freshman for the Gators. Vargas had plenty to do with landing Boynton.

“I’ve played with Eloy for four years,” said Boynton. “I talk to him nearly every day.”

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.