Shooting woes slowing Boynton

Florida head coach Billy Donovan didn't know how to say it. He paused, thought a second to himself and decided to go forward with his response to the question. After being asked what has caused the shooting slump for senior guard Kenny Boynton, a shy smile grew on Donovan's face. He's not rooting for his four-year starter to struggle from the field, but the shots not falling could be a positive.

"This is going to sound terrible to say because I don't know how to put it in the right context, but this is great for him," Billy Donovan said with a laugh. "Not that I want him going through a difficult time, but he has to fight through this. Anytime anything comes easy to you and you don't have to work for it and struggle for it and battle and grind, you lose a sense of how hard it is to make shots and be a good player.

"If he's going through difficult times later in the year after it has been a cakewalk for him, he's got to learn how to battle. Do I want him making every shot? Absolutely. Do I want him struggling personally? No. At the end, this could be really good for him."

The lesson for Kenny Boynton from the coaches and his teammates is one that he hasn't needed to hear in his first three years. They're encouraging him to keep shooting. Boynton already has the school record with 813 three-point attempts, giving him 58 more than second place Erving Walker, and Donovan hopes those numbers continue.

At least after he makes some changes.

The shooting slump for Boynton has worn on him. In his last four games, Boynton is averaging eight points per game and shooting 22.5% (9-for-40) from the field and 11.1% (3-27) from behind the three-point line.

"He has really, really struggled shooting the ball," Donovan said. "I think that this is going to enable him as a senior to preserve, take on the struggle and take on the challenge to utilize this to make him stronger as a player."

The issue is shot selection. In the last four games, 67.5% of Boynton's shots have been three-pointers. That's what needs to change. Donovan has seen Boynton become too reliant on his outside shot. When it's not falling, he needs to take the ball to the rim more often and stop shooting from the perimeter.

In Florida's biggest games this season, Boynton has relied heavily on his perimeter shot. Against Arizona, Florida State, Marquette and Wisconsin this season, 59.5% of his field goal attempts have been from behind the three-point line.

On Wednesday in Florida's 82-43 win over Southeastern Louisiana, all seven of Boynton's shots were from behind the three-point line, some of them wide open looks that didn't fall.

"When you become one-dimensional like that and you're relying on that, what happens is you have to add different things to your game," Donovan said. "You've got to get to the free throw line, drive the ball and get assists."

The confidence among his teammates remains the same. They've seen what Boynton has done on the floor of the O'Connell Center in the first three years of his career. Mike Rosario, Boynton's roommate, said he has continued to encourage him to shoot and get extra work before and after practice. That's the exact recipe that got Rosario out of his early season shooting slump.

It all comes back to Boynton's track record as a scorer, and the Gators are confident it will return to being that way soon.

"There's no doubt in my mind," point guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "I don't think there's any doubt for anybody on this staff or on this team. He has proven himself. He's a great shooter, just going through a little slump. He'll bounce back."

One four-game shooting slump doesn't undo three-plus years of a track record. Last season, Boynton joined Lee Humphrey as the second player in Florida history to hit more than 100 three-pointers in a season. He also had a 34-game streak of hitting at least one three-pointer that was snapped last season.

He also has 278 career three-pointers, putting him in third place in school history and just 10 behind Humphrey's record. He'll also pass Erving Walker, currently in second place, on the list.

"When something happens for a long period of time, you have a tendency to think about it," Donovan said of Boynton's shooting issues. "I told him to just let it go. You've got to let it go and shoot the ball. I told him, ‘you owe it to everybody on the team to shoot the ball with confidence.'

"If you're going to rise up and shoot, believe that it's going in. Getting him to restore some of that confidence is important."

When the shots aren't falling, Boynton is still impacting the game. For the third time this season, Boynton totaled five assists in his last game. His move to the point guard has the Florida coaches pushing for more from him when the shots aren't falling. He also recorded two steals and four rebounds. He's averaging 4.2 rebounds per game this year, well over his career average of 2.2.

"You're playing the point and can't be wrapped up in your shooting," Donovan said. "If you're taking good shots, there are other parts of the game you can impact. He's growing and maturing through that."

And by the time the season ends, this current shooting slump could be what pushed Boynton's play to the next level.

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