Anytime Florida gets a commitment, people notice. The Gators have claimed a pair of national championships during the Billy Donovan era and over the years have put numerous talent evaluation feathers under their cap.
For that reason, then, many raised their eyebrows when Kevarrius Hayes committed to Florida early last summer. It wasn't so much that the pledge was surprising — after all, he's a tall athlete who's local to Gainesville — only that everyone wanted to watch him in person.
Hayes had generated some buzz at the Elite 100 Camp just prior to his commitment, and he proved to be a standout at AAU Nationals in late July. I watched him in the fall at the Nike Team Florida Workout, and he certainly dispelled any skepticism about his ability to contribute to the Gator program.
He's more athlete than player and more highlight-maker than consistent stats producer, but that's common for young big men. Hayes' best quality is outstanding quickness of the floor. He utilizes that quick leap to snag rebounds, swat shots and toss down impressive slams. For Suwannee High, he has become a specialist at catching lobs off the backboard on the break. That kind of showiness in and of itself doesn't make for a great player, but you do get a sense for his physical gifts.
Beyond that, though he's thin now, his frame should enable him to add the weight needed to perform versus stronger opponents. If he's going to be full-time post player, he'll need to add muscle without sacrificing quickness, speed or flexibility.
For now, point blank range definitely is where Hayes belongs. He's a meat and potatoes offensive player who's effective enough on that basis that he can afford to take his time expanding his game.
But to maximize his potential, of course, he'll eventually need to enhance his skills. Thankfully, as a junior he has another 18 months before he dons a Gator uniform, and even then he's unlikely to face intense expectations right away. No one can know just how Hayes will evolve, but his opening act clearly has been impressive.