By Chris Dortch
Florida guard Kenny Boynton is one of those fortunate few whose vocation is their avocation.
Ask the typical college student-athlete what they like to do in their spare time and the response is just as typical: playing video games, listening to music, chilling. Ask Boynton and he’ll say that he’s into reality TV.
“I watch a lot of college basketball games,” Boynton said. “I love a great game of college basketball. I love college basketball as a whole.”
Right away we know one important thing about why Boynton, the current SEC Player of the Week, is so good. He’s eaten up with the game. But there’s another, important reason the 6-2 junior has become one of the most feared scorers in college basketball. Boynton isn’t afraid of a little hard work, which again brings us around to his habit of watching games.
After every game, one of the duties of Florida’s video coordinator is to make Boynton a DVD copy. Boynton takes the disc to Florida’s film room, or goes to his room and slips it into his computer, and does a Roger Ebert number—thumbs up or thumbs down—on his performances.
Referred to by some—a bit derisively—as a “volume” shooter earlier in his career, Boynton has taken his game to another level because of his personal film sessions.
“I watch the whole game,” Boynton said. “Every game. I’m looking at the shots I’ve taken. Were they open shots or tough shots? I didn’t do that my first two years. It’s really helped me a lot, because it’s helped me learn about shot selection.
“Coming from high school, I could take any shot I wanted. You get so many more shots in high school because you’re not playing against as many talented players. In college, I’ve learned not to force the issue; if it’s not your night [shooting], it’s not your night. Find other things to do to help your team win, like play defense.”
Boynton’s numbers this season are a testament to his more prudent approach to shot selection. As a freshman he launched 245 3-pointers—an average of 7.2 per game—and made just 29 percent of them. Boynton hoisted 242 3s as a sophomore—6.5 per game—and his percentage rose to 33.
Ironically, Boynton has become even more reliant on the 3 this season, averaging eight attempts a game. But because he’s a much more patient and selective shooter, Boynton is converting an impressive 47 percent of his shots from behind the arc, which has increased his point total. Boynton averaged a tad more than 14 points per game his first two seasons. This year, he’s at 18.7, second in the SEC.
Here’s more irony: Boynton is scoring more than ever despite the addition of high-scoring guards Mike Rosario (9.4 ppg), a transfer from Rutgers, and Bradley Beal (15.0 ppg), a five-star freshman from St. Louis, Boynton. Already this season, he’s topped the 20-point mark six times, including a stretch of three games in a row, a first in his career.
While it might have been logical to assume Boynton’s touches and scoring average would go down playing alongside Rosario, Beal and senior point guard Erving Walker (14.5 ppg), who’s been known to crank up a shot or two, his production has actually increased.
In Florida coach Billy Donovan’s offense, there are more than enough shots to go around. The Gators are averaging 86.1 points per game, tops in the SEC and fifth in Division I. They lead the nation in 3s made (123) and per game (11.2).
Boynton has contributed exactly one third of those 3s. And he’s done it without forcing anything.
"The biggest thing right now is he's finally realizing how long a game is, and to start the game he's biding his time, not forcing anything and is really patient and relaxed,” Donovan said. “When he gets his legs under him, he can go on a roll. When he shoots tough shots or off-balance shots, he doesn't shoot quite as good of a percentage. But when he and Erving have looks from deep and they knock down a couple of those, it actually creates better spacing for our team because teams have to come out to [defend] that."
"I think the adjustment Kenny has made over the last couple of years is understanding what shots to take and what shots not to take. Clearly, his shooting percentage this year is at a much, much higher rate than it has been the last couple of years, but he's really grown in a lot of ways."
In addition to his film work, Boynton has put in countless hours in the gym, working on other aspects of his game.
“As a player, you know your weaknesses,” Boynton said. “In high school, I really didn’t have a mid-range game. I’d shoot 3s or drive it to the hole. I also wasn’t able to go to my left hand. You notice stuff like that watching tape. Then you go to work on it.”
“Offensively he's becoming more and more complete,” Donovan said. “His assist-to-turnover ratio is really good [2.3-1], he's making pull-up, mid-range jump shots; he's making runners. I think with him doing that, it's opened up other areas for him behind the [3-point] line."
Florida assistant John Pelphrey has a unique perspective on Boynton. As the head coach at Arkansas, Pelphrey game-planned against Boynton for two years. Now he’s coaching him.
“Two things you learn about Kenny being around him as much I’ve been since I got here,” Pelphrey said. “One, people don’t realize how hard you have to work to be a great player in this league. Kenny puts in the time. He’s right up there with the best I’ve been around as a player or coach in terms of how hard he works trying to get better.
“Two, Kenny is absolutely fearless, and he understands the moment. He’s always ready to take the big shot. But he’s also got a short memory. If you don’t make the play this time, make it the next time. The great players all have that quality.”