Two of three seniors set to take the court for the Florida Gators this season, guard Kenny Boynton and forward Erik Murphy have both proved to be effective scorers and terrific three-point shooters. Boynton has also been a clutch perimeter defender at times for Florida, while Murphy has improved his chops defensively in the post. Neither player, however, is without his faults, and finding new ways in which each can contribute is what head coach Billy Donovan has spent his summer trying to do.
Such a terrific high school player that many thought he would not last more than a year with the Gators, Boynton struggled with his shot as a freshman and again as a sophomore. He upped his shooting percentage significantly last summer and shot a career-best 44 percent from the field (40.7 percent from downtown) while averaging a career-high 15.9 points per game.
What he has yet to do is learn how to handle the basketball, attack the basket or hit the mid-range jumper with the necessary consistency that one needs to succeed at the next level. Boynton, due to his height (6’2”), will have to play point guard professionally, a position he has yet to master by any means and will not be thrust into his senior season.
Donovan hopes that teaching (but not forcing) Boynton to be a better leader, while simultaneously working on some of the finer points of his game, can give him a great chance to both help Florida and play at the next level.
Read the rest of his story on Boynton and Murphy…after the break!
“Like any of these guys, the goal at the end of this process to have an opportunity to play in the NBA. Certainly, I think for Kenny that’s an opportunity,” he said. “He and Erving [Walker] together have played so well, with Erving not being here hopefully he can step up into more of a leadership role for us.
“Kenny has been one those kind of quiet leaders where he doesn’t say a whole lot. I think a lot of times it’s done through how he performs and how hard he plays and I think I learned a valuable lesson a year ago where I thrust Erving into a situation where I wanted him to be more vocal and probably really wasn’t reflective of his personality. So probably I have to be a little bit careful with Kenny. I’d like to see him obviously be more vocal but at the same point I don’t want to put him in a situation where he’s uncomfortable being who he has been or who he wants to be.”
To Boynton’s credit, he realizes it is now or never to put it all together and wrap up a package that helps the Gators succeed and makes him more attractive to NBA scouts.
“Overall, my mid-range game has gotten way better than it has been,” said Boynton of his summer workouts, according to The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. “On defense, I’m calling it out, this is going to be my best year.”
Murphy’s big leap can come on offense in the post. A dangerous outside shooter who hit 48.5 percent of his shots from the field and 42.1 percent from behind the arc, he has already proven that he can play but now must focus on rounding-out his game.
Donovan believes Murphy not only can but has to become a low-post scorer for Florida to be successful and outlined on Wednesday what his struggles have been up to this point and how he must improve going forward in order to reach that goal.
“I think he’s got to do a better job at the basket for us. He cannot just be, for us, a guy that steps away from the basket and shoots it. I think he’s proven himself to be able to do that pretty consistently,” he said.
“I think the next step for him is: Can he be a scorer from the perimeter and from the mid-post or the low-post? He knows he needs to do that. I think offensively we’ve got to try to put him in situations where we can get him the ball where he can do a little bit more of that. There’s times that, because people want to take away his shooting, they switch on him and there’s a smaller guard fronting him, getting into his legs. He’s got to do a better job understanding how to take advantage of those things. We’ve got to do a better job getting the ball to him.
“I would say that would be the next step for him would be to be a guy who can score a little bit more under the basket. He’s actually a good low-post player. When he catches the ball, he’s actually a very efficient low-post scorer. The difficulty last year for him sometimes in the post was getting the ball. People got into his legs and got below him and pushed him and rode him out of spots and got him in areas where he couldn’t catch it. I think the biggest thing for Erik is catching it. Once he can establish a catch, I feel pretty confident that he can score.”
Murphy being able to score in the low post would certainly attract bigger defenders, which in turn would open up more of the driving lanes that Boynton hopes to find this season. He can also assist his senior teammate in the role of on-court leader, one area in which Donovan said he has already seen Murphy step up.
“I think Erik has gotten stronger. He’s made a nice jump from last year. He’s really actually been probably a guy that was somewhat quiet that I actually see him stepping up and being a more vocal leader on our team. I think he’s wanted to take over that role and do a little bit more in that area,” he said.
A lot is going to fall onto the shoulders of Boynton and Murphy this season. How the duo is able to manage that pressure, while ensuring that they do the little things necessary to improve their respective game, will go a long way to determining how close the Gators can go to reaching their ultimate goal.
Photo Credit: Gerald Herbert/Associated Press