Basketball Preview: Pre-season Superlatives

Nov 5, 2018 | 0 comments

The Florida Gators are gearing up for the tip-off of the 2018 season, which gets underway Tuesday when the Gators travel to Tallahassee for a match-up with No. 17 Florida State. With the season ready to start, it’s time to look at some pre-season superlatives.

  • Breakout Candidate: Keyontae Johnson, Forward

At 6-foot-5, 225-pounds, Johnson may arguably be the best athlete on the team. Boasting a 41.5” vertical leap as a freshman, Johnson can bounce with the best them and has great ability to finish around the rim. Johnson scored 12 points while making five of his seven shot attempts in the team’s exhibition game. It still isn’t determined how much action Johnson will see as a freshman, but he could serve as one of the Gators most exciting players to watch.

  • Deepest Position: Guard

The Gators are deep at both guard spots, with multiple guys who can run the point and play shooting guard. The Gators have a solid rotation of experienced guys along with a couple newcomers that can produce at the guard positions. Seniors Jalen Hudson and KeVaughn Allen will lead the group of guards.

  • Thinnest Position: Center

Florida only has two true-centers on the roster, in Kevarrius Hayes and Gorjok Gak. Hayes will serve as the starter, while Gak will handle reserve duties. However, behind Gak is where things might begin to get difficult at the position. Gak has battled injuries his entire collegiate-career and if he can’t stay healthy behind Hayes, things could get interesting in the Gators front-court rotation.

  • Biggest Question: Can KeVaughn Allen return to his sophomore season form?

2017 was an eventful year for KeVaughn Allen. After receiving many preseason accolades, Allen didn’t live up to those expectations, averaging only 11 points. To be fair to Allen, he had a lot things happening off-the-court, and the addition of Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov last season took away some of his production. Now a senior, Allen has one more chance to return to the level of play that put him in the spotlight.

  • Forgotten Man: Keith Stone, Forward

Often overlooked last season, Stone averaging a career-high in points with 8.8 per game. At 6-foot-8, Stone can be productive in the paint, but also possesses the ability to stretch the floor and shoot from the perimeter. Stone shot 42% from beyond the arc last season and is another player the Gators can rely on to make a big-shot if needed.

  • Impact Freshman: Andrew Nembhard, Guard

Rated as a five-star point guard by most recruiting services, Nembhard is tasked with the challenge of taking over for Chris Chiozza as the Gators point guard. Chiozza’s shoes are going to be no easy ones to fill, as he left as the program’s leader in assists. Nembhard, who started at point guard in the team’s exhibition, is a crafty passer who looks to get his teammates involved as possible. At 6’5, he also has the ability to get to the basket with his frame.

  • Best Player: Jalen Hudson, Guard

After testing NBA Draft waters, Hudson made the decision to withdraw his name from the draft and return to Florida for his senior season. Now, Hudson will be the driving force of the Gators offense this year, after showing he can lead the way as the Gators leading scorer a year ago. With the ability to score in an abundance of ways, Hudson should lead the Gators and could see his name sneak into the conference player of the year conversation.

  • Biggest Storyline to Watch: Isaiah Stokes post-ACL surgery

Stokes was a four-star prospect in the class of 2017, but didn’t see the floor during his freshman year while recovering from a torn ACL. Stokes saw his first minutes  for the Gators during the team’s exhibition against Florida Southern last Tuesday. Stokes scored six points with a rebound, assist and a block each in nine minutes of action.

Tags: Player

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