Standing only 6’2″, Kenny Boynton is a tweener. Undersized for a shooting guard, he doesn’t quite have the ball skills nor the quickness and agility of a true point guard.
His shooting skills are undeniable. A Parade and McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, he’s the consummate sniper. He’s deadly from three, from midrange, or driving to the basket. He’s best as a spot up shooter though. He doesn’t have the quickness and agility necessary to consistently beat defenders off the dribble. Thankfully Billy Donovan doesn’t need him to do that.
In high school he averaged 33 points per game his senior year and was known as a sharpshooter. He hasn’t disappointed in Gainesville. Well, not entirely. As often is the case, he struggled somewhat in his freshman season, not so much in finding shots to take, but in his accuracy and efficiency. He finished his freshman season with the second most 3 point shots made by a Florida freshman. However, his efficiency struggled hitting only 29.4 percent of his threes and 37 percent overall.
His struggles were related to a few different things. First would be the usual freshman jitters as shooters, particularly undersized ones, have to adjust to the speed and ability at the SEC level. In high school good players are usually head and shoulders better than their opponents. A good scorer doesn’t usually have to fight for his shot, he can simply catch and shoot or dribble drive and score. When he gets to college he’s generally facing taller quicker defenders who can face up quickly and have the hand skills to block shots. An outside shooter must work harder to get open looks and the catch and shoot must go quicker as well. For a 6’2″ shooting guard there was certainly an adjustment period
Another issue was the talent around him. Good shooters need a couple of things to help facilitate their shot. They need strong point guard play and good post play. A good shooter like Boynton is like a receiver in football, they need someone to get them the ball in good scoring position. He doesn’t create his own shot so much as wait to receive the ball when the point guard breaks down the interior defense. Good post play is equally important. A good post scorer can demand double teams and that gives outside shooters some open looks as defenses double down or sag to prevent easy post scores.
In Kenny’s first two seasons, the Gators struggled with inconsistent point guard play and little real post presence. Erving Walker was a great passing point guard, but struggled scoring in the paint. He could beat defenders off the dribble but once he got in the paint he had a difficult time shooting over much taller defenders. As such there was little need for teams to sag or provide backside help. So most of Boynton’s shots were contested rather than from open looks and that helped to keep his efficiency down.
In the post the Gators were greatly undersized with no true center with height or length. What they had was a collection of small and power forwards who could score but didn’t create matchup problems. Again no reason for teams to sag or double in the paint meant less open looks for Boynton and more contested shots.
By his junior year though things changed for the better. Boynton, of course, matured and got better with his technique. He’s become better at getting his feet set on his shot, he’s gotten better at beating guys off the dribble or getting them airborn and taking a stepup shot, and he’s gotten better at making tightly contested shots. As a result his accuracy increased to 40.7 percent on 3 pt shots and 44 percent overall. That’s the kind of shooting and accuracy Gator fans expected when he signed with Florida. Last season Billy Donovan said,
“I think that Kenny (Boynton) has shot the ball very well this year. I am pleased with the progress that he has made over the past couple of years. His freshman year, I thought that he was just a one-dimensional guy, just a deep three-point shooter. But he’s added different elements to his game his sophomore and now his junior year. He’s driving to the basket, he’s shooting pull-up jump shots, he’s getting fouled, he’s getting to the free-throw line, his shooting percentage is much higher.
Additionally, his supporting cast got better. Or more accurately became more complementary. As a senior, Erving Walker better understood his role in the offense in relation to his skill set. What that meant was he had a better understanding of how to break down the defense given his limited size and as such became a better scorer, but more importantly, a better facilitator.
Center Patric Young, in his sophomore season, provided more of a post presence than the Gators had the previous two years. This created more double team situations and, as a result, led to more open looks for Boynton.
Also the presence of freshman phenom Bradley Beal took a lot of pressure off Boynton as well. Beal was a highly versatile player. He possessed the ball skills to play either guard slot and the length to play small forward in a three guard lineup. He was particularly dangerous at the forward slot as his quickness and ball skills made him a matchup nightmare. All this added up to more open looks for Boynton who doesn’t have the agility to create shots but is deadly accurate on open catch and shoots.
Defensively, the knock has been that he is somewhat of a liability. That, however, has not been the case. While it is true he doesn’t have the length you like at that position, he has been an effective shot blocker, ball stealer, and rebounder throughout his career in Gainesville. What he lacks in size he makes up for with quick hands and good position. He rarely gets taken off his feet and can reach in effectively for the steal when players aren’t taking care of the ball properly. He also has been a very good rebounder for a player his size both in the paint and on long rebounds.
His biggest limitation defensively is his feet. He’s not as quick and agile as you’d like at the position. He can be beaten off the dribble. However, he does a good job compensating by maintaining good body position, staying in the ball handler’s face, and using his hands effectively to keep the defender from taking the first step, and by not getting taken off his feet.
So as Kenny Boynton begins his senior year in Gainesville he is within striking distance of finishing as the Gators leading scorer needing only 502 points. Much more will be expected of him this season on the court and off the court. Up to now he has been a quiet player, going about his business and doing his job. With Walker gone, and some youth in the lineup, Billy Donovan expects a more vocal leadership from Kenny this season.
“I’d like to see him be more vocal but at the same time I don’t want to put him in (an uncomfortable situation),” Donovan said.
It’s not so much volume as much as the need to be more of a coach on and off the court helping the younger players learn the offense and defense and their role in it.
With Beal and Walker gone this season, almost two-thirds or the Gators three point baskets went with it. As such, Boynton will be need to be a highly efficient scorer and become the go to guy when the game is on the line and the Gators need a shot.
Kenny Boynton’s time in Gainesville has been extremely pr0ductive. He helped lead them to back to back elite eight appearances. This season will be a transition with a solid core of veteran’s combined with a ton of talented youth. Kenny Boynton’s leadership and skills will be relied upon heavily as they try to match the success of the last two seasons.