Following up on part one of the progress report series, we continue with the second half on the roster. If you haven’t read part one, I suggest you go back and read it before coming back to this piece.
Finally getting the chance to consistently start at point guard, senior Chris Chiozza has seized the opportunity and played great basketball. His mix of speed and rugged determination has made him both a fan favorite locally and across the country after his strong performance at the PK 80 had color analyst Dan Dakich saying he was “one of the best point guards in the country.” Coach White made it known that he challenged Chiozza to lead the nation in assist to turnover ratio, and though he has some ground to make up in the national ranks his 6.8 assists per game is an outstanding rate. His rebounding for a 6’0” guard has also been impressive, and his ability to turn on the jets after grabbing a defensive rebound has been the fire starter for Florida’s frightening transition attack. His defense has also been stellar, particularly when it comes to limiting the opposing point guard’s jump shooting. Players are only shooting 25.9% from the perimeter when guarded by Chiozza, especially impressive considering he is guarding a position that is usually relied upon to shoot the ball well.
Strengths: Offensive efficiency. I have been critical in the past of Chiozza’s shooting numbers, as in his past seasons he has floated around 40% from the field and had never shot the three better then 32.3%. He has drastically improved in these areas, starting the year by shooting 49% from the field and a staggering 58.8% from three. Going from a below average to an above average shooter has made pressure on defenses so much different then the Gators teams of the past few years, and it really helps the offense.
Weaknesses: Finishing in the paint. Chiozza has been a great shooter, but finishing inside has been a struggle for him his entire career. His 43.6% rate finishing around the rim is in the bottom 16% of the country, and he has only finished on 28.6% of his attempts when using a screen to get into the paint. If he can improve in this area his offensive game will be at another level.
Taking some of the backup minutes at center in John Egbunu’s absence, Gak has been worked in to a ten minute a game role, one that he’ll be working on keeping up or even improving as the season progresses. His length is apparent the moment he walks on the floor, and that size has to be in the minds of opposing players driving towards the hoop when they see Gak meet them. Taken by Mike White and his staff as a bit of project there is still lots of work for him to do, but there is optimism he can turn into a really solid college big man.
Strengths: Playing within himself. When you shoot 73.3% from the field like Gak has, you’re definitely not taking too many shots you’re uncomfortable with. He knows his role offensively, and it is to be present around the rim ready for a drop off pass when guards get penetration. He’s still working on his timing when rolling to the rim after a screen, and when he gets that down he’ll be more of an offensive threat. He has scored 80% off cuts, which makes for easy offense and easy points that a big man can make a career out of.
Things to Improve: Rim protection. When you are as long as Gak is you are expected to be a strong interior defender, and unfortunately the metrics aren’t kind to that facet of his game. He has allowed opponents to score on an unbelievable 83.3% of post up possessions, though the tough matchups against Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams and Duke’s Marvin Bagley really inflated those numbers. He also has a block rate of 6.9%, which is very pedestrian in terms of college big man. As he continues to learn his timing and rotations will improve, and I’m sure he will get to point of really using his length to be disruptive around the rim.
Hayes, the 6’9”, 220 pound Junior from Live Oak, Florida, has been one of the key pieces in Florida’s frontcourt with 24 minutes per game. Undersized against some bulkier centers that Florida has faced, Hayes relies upon his foot speed and anticipation to anchor the Gators’ defense. Though he lost his starting spot while in Portland he has still been trusted to take on a lot of key matchups and is still getting a lion’s share of available post minutes.
Strengths: Help side defense. When a Florida guard gets beat off the dribble, you can bet Hayes will be there looking to rotate over and plug up the hole. His 2.0 blocks per game and 1.8 steals per game are incredibly impressive defensive numbers, and his block percentage of 8.1% and steal percentage of 3.6% put him in the top 160 nationally in both categories. He also has been excellent at getting out and bothering shooters, as opponents have shot a dismal 11.1% when Hayes is there to contest them.
Things to Improve: Defensive rebounding. With Egbunu out the Gators need defensive rebounding, and unfortunately Hayes hasn’t been effective there yet. His 4.8 rebounds per game is only 0.4 higher then last season’s total, yet he is playing almost 6 minutes per game more. His 11.3% defensive rebounding rate falls below the average college center and several teammates, so it is an area the team needs improvement from him. As I mentioned before, he can do some really great things defensively so by grabbing a defensive rebound he ensures the end of the opposition’s possession. Look for Hayes to get better in this area as it becomes more of a focus.
Playing in a crowded frontcourt, Bassett hasn’t been able to consistently crack the rotation and didn’t play against Gonzaga or Duke in the PK 80. Coming off of a foot injury, the medical redshirt freshman is still finding his way within the offensive and defensive schemes.
Strengths: Hustle. Bassett has a reputation for being a grinder, and that hard work could be the way he finds minutes at the high major level of college basketball. The physicality he displays on the court is evidenced by his strong rebounding in short stints, and if he can keep that up when he gets more minutes he will put up tremendous numbers on the glass. Toughness can be a huge x-factor for great college basketball teams so if he can contribute there he could be a useful piece.
Things to Improve: Team concepts. Bassett appears to still be finding his footing within the Gators schemes, and has been lost at times on both ends of the floor. Being late and out of place defensively against Stanford led him to fouling out in only 10 minutes of play, and missing setting some screens on offense has blown up sets. As mentioned earlier he is only a redshirt freshman so you can certainly expect improvement as the year progresses.
Averaging the most minutes of any Florida freshman, Ballard has impressed early in his college basketball career. Playing behind the talented platoon of upperclassmen wings, he has been able to use his toughness and determination to earn a regular shift. Although some of his production has come in garbage time, his 8.3 points per game in only 13.3 minutes shows a player who knows how to score, and Gators fans should be excited about what Ballard could accomplish in his time in a Florida uniform.
Strengths: Ability to get to the rim. Ballard has long strides to pick up speed and long arms to keep his dribble low, and uses those tools mixed with shiftiness and power to beat his primary defender off the bounce and get to the hoop. Once he gets there, he has the strength to take contact and score. Many young players struggle to score around the hoop as they adjust to division 1 size and athleticism meeting them at the rim, but Ballard has converted at 70% there. He has also been excellent in transition, converting at 63.6% on the run.
Things to Improve: Shooting. Ballard hasn’t shown a lot of touch from the outside, shooting 35.7% on all jump shots, and only 16.7% on catch and shoot attempts. His stroke has looked a little uncertain so far, and he hasn’t made things easier on himself as he has taken a lot of tough shots. Improving shot selection would certainly help his efficiency, as his desire to shoot contested jumpers hasn’t helped his numbers.
Keith Stone was a player expected to take a big step forward going into this season, as last year’s redshirt freshman campaign had measured success that seemed to ramp up near the end of the campaign. He hasn’t reached expectations quite yet, but he is still an everyday starter for the Gators, playing the both the power forward and center position when needed. Outmatched physically by a lot of opposing centers, he is still learning on how he can use his skill and speed to win that matchup on the offensive side of the floor. Between his shooting, passing, and ball handling Stone is a bit of a jack-of-all trades but a master of none. However, players that skilled could explode at any moment when they put it all together, so the Gators could really have a special player on their hands.
Strengths: Versatility. As mentioned, he has a diverse set of skills that makes him useful in many capacities around the court. You can put him the high post against a zone, put him in the low block against a smaller player, or have him play the wing and attack off the dribble. He has played both the power forward and center position so far this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays some small forward at some point during his time in Gainesville. Having a guy you can move around like that really helps in setting your lineups and he will be a useful player for the Gators his entire career.
Things to Improve: Assertiveness. Despite his offensive skillset, Stone has a usage rate of 12.9%, the second lowest on the team. Only attempting 4.8 shots per game for 5.8 points, he hasn’t always been a threat to score. The flip side is that he is a willing passer which is great, but his size and skill set is perfect for capitalizing on favorable matchups and that hasn’t happened yet. You would also love to see an improvement on the glass, as his 2.3 rebounds per game is a tiny number, and his 10.1% defensive rebounding rate is extremely low, evidenced by the fact that number is almost being doubled by 6’0” Chris Chiozza (19.5%).
What kind of progress would you like to see from the Gators this year? Leave a comment here or post on the Gator Country forums.