There will be several former Arkansas high school stars on the court Wednesday night at Florida, but that won’t be limited to just the Razorback roster.
The Gators feature former North Little Rock standout KeVaughn Allen (6-2, 183) - the current SEC Freshman of the Week - as well as former Conway star Justin Leon (6-8, 196), who blossomed after matriculating to Shawnee, Ill., Community College.
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson knows his Razorbacks (11-10, 4-4) – including new SEC Player of the Week Moses Kingsley - will be facing two fired up players for the Gators (14-7, 5-3) in the 6 p.m. game in Gainesville that will be televised by the SEC Network.
"You will get their best shot,” Anderson said Monday. “KeVaughn certainly is a very, very talented player. At North Little Rock he won multiple state championships. He played with (Arkansas sophomore) Anton Beard one of those years so he is someone we are familiar with and certainly a big-time scorer.
“And of course you have got the Leon kid who has really come on for them out of Conway. With those guys you know they are going to get their best shot. I don’t think Leon (concussion) played in their last game so I am sure he will be rested up and has probably circled this particular game, especially when you are playing against your home state.
“Not only are we going to get their best shot, we are going to get Florida’s best shot. We are in a race, we are in a conference race. So what teams try to do, they try to take care of the home court. Hold serve at home.
“So it should be a fun game. Should be up-tempo with their pressure defense and our pressure defense. Their up-tempo offense, ours as well. It may come down to the benches, whose bench is playing well."
Florida head coach Michael White knows those two players likely have thought a bit about this game.
“I am just assuming here but I am sure just like KeVaughn in growing up ad being so exposed to Razorback basketball growing up in that state I am sure that these guys have known when this game was on the calendar,” White said.
“These guys can’t play emotional. They have got to be level-headed. They can play with emotion, but because we are playing an in-state team doesn’t mean they need to play differently than they have been playing.”
Allen is averaging 11.9 points while Leon – who missed the last game with a concussion - is averaging 4.9 points and 2.6 rebounds per game.
“Justin has been terrific,” White said. “He has been a big part of why we have played better offensively in the past three or four weeks. Probably him and Dorian Finney-Smith have been the two biggest factors.
“Justin is probably more concerned with whether or not he will play. He is coming off a concussion a couple of games at Vanderbilt where he only played three minutes. His health is going to be his biggest concern. He will go at it today in practice and we will take it from there.
Florida is coming off an 88-71 home win over No. 9 West Virginia Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
That broke a string of 12 straight losses to Top 10 teams over the last few years.
Dorian Finney-Smith - a 6-8, 220-pound senior forward averaging 14.8 points and 8.1 rebounds - had 24 points in that win while Allen had 19.
“Dorian Finney-Smith is a tremendous player paying some of his better basketball,” Anderson said. “ We have seen him for the last two or three years and he has been like a thorn in our side. That’s for sure. He is playing at a high level. “
The Gators also feature 6-11, 225-pound redshirt sophomore John Egbunu (10.5, 6.4), 6-8, 195-pound sophomore forward Devin Robinson (9.1), 6-1 junior guard Kasey Hill (8.1) and 6-0 sophomore point guard Chris Chiozza (7.0) as significant contributors.
“We're going to be playing against a Florida team that likes to get up and down the floor,” Anderson said. “Michael White has done a tremendous job with them. They had a big win against West Virginia. It was not even a contest.
“And West Virginia is a team that presses and gets up and down the floor, so I'm sure it gave them preparation for our team coming in.
So it's going to be a tremendous challenge and a great opportunity for us.”
Kingsley was named the league’s Player of the Week after averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in wins over No. 5 Texas A&M and Texas Tech last week.
“First of all, congratulations to Moses,” Anderson said. Very well deserved. He really worked extremely hard in the offseason. I just thought he was mentored by some pretty good players. And a guy like Bobby Portis, they're like brothers.
“But it's his opportunity. To me, each week it just seems like he's grasping more and more of what we want from him, and so it needs to be on display. Our guys are finally figuring out, let's go through Moses and good things take place… He's playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
Behind 6-3 guards Anthlon Bell and Dusty Hannahs, Arkansas leads the SEC in 3-point shooting at 42.4 percent per game and scoring (81.6) while Florida is holding foes to a league-best 30.3 percent from beyond the arc.
“They are a really good defensive team,” Anderson said. “They are athletic and quick. Their guards and forwards are versatile. They can get out and cover guards. Their defense press you up and push you out pretty far with the defense.
“We have got to be able to spread the floor and attack them and hopefully get some opportunities inside. They do a good job of covering the perimeter.
White said it has been just a matter of hard work and having some characteristics that help.
“We have pretty good length and pretty good speed and quickness,” White said. “Nothing magical about it. It is one of our strengths and we have our share of weaknesses.
“Arkansas is interesting in that they shoot it so well they don’t rely upon it as much as you think. By their numbers they are sixth in the country in 3-point percentage but they are 343rd in terms of attempts to field goal attempts ratio.
“So they are just really, really efficient in terms of shooting the three. They have got those two guys in Hannahs and Bell who are shooting it as well as anybody in our league. So to have two guys that do it and shoot it at that percentage makes them a force.”