Making 49.3% of his shots on the year, senior forward Justin Leon knocked in 19 points Saturday night in the Gators 83-70 win over Tennessee. Leon is the workhorse of the team, scrapping for every rebound, on the floor after every loose ball, and doing all the Dennis Rodman type dirty work you need from your guys when you can get it. The crazy thing is he is also shooting 45.5% from the three-point line, a number that leads the Gators.
“We’ve talked about it all year… we wish he would fall into two or three more open shots a game because he is shooting the ball so well,” White said following the win over the Volunteers in which Leon went 3-for-4 from the arc to accentuate his 19 points.
Leon has a smooth stroke that he back spins out of his hand to the hoop. The spin rarely matters as his makes seem to hit nothing but net. White loves his senior forward and tells of how intriguing his story really is as a guy that came to Florida not as a shooter.
“He’s an interesting story because he’s never been characterized as a shooter,” White said. “He was a center in high school and in junior college he was a guy that ended up being a 4/5 type guy who was a slasher / rebounder. He’s just really worked on his game.
For Leon it is all about the amount of work he puts in to make his game better. At 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds he has tremendous athletic ability even if he isn’t the best skill wise. His skills are what he is working and working to improve.
“Every single day after practice he’s getting a ton of game speed three’s up, whether he feels good or not or whether we practice for three hours or one hour… it’s who he is,” White said like a proud poppa. “He’s a very mentally tough kid and I thought he hit some timely shots for us (against the Vols). He doesn’t even think about it. It doesn’t faze him. He’s a junk yard dog for us and I think it’s pretty unique when your junk yard dog happens to be your best percentage shooter at the same time. He’s gotten better with slowing down offensively when the ball is in his hands, yet defensively and on the glass still continuing to play like the Tasmanian Devil.”
A compliment to Leon is sophomore guard Kevaughn Allen. Blessed with tremendous basketball skill that he honed throughout his childhood, Allen has been a guy that has been a streaky shooter at times and is on a serious roll now. Allen hit 4-of-6 from the three-point line and scored a game high 23 points against the Vols. He can do his damage from outside or take the ball to the hoop as well as anyone and he is doing that.
“KeVaughn Allan has been in a really good flow for three or four weeks,” White said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence and shooting the ball at a very high clip. He made some really big ones for us. I remember he made a really difficult one off of a handoff and made it look easy. He’s really coming into his own as a more consistent scorer for us. He’s got such a strong lower body and body control that he can make those difficult shots when he’s not completely square, because he’ll square in the air.”
White is happy that Allen has started listening to him and his teammates about taking more shots. Always the team player, everyone around him has had to push him to not pass when the open shot is there. He is now doing more of that and you can he is being much more assertive on the court which is paying dividends for the Gators offensively.
“We’ve talked a lot about that at times, having to beg him to shoot and we haven’t had to beg him to shoot lately and that’s nice,” White said. “Whether they’re going on or not, and usually they do go in. It’s nice to see him really aggressive because he’s a really talented scorer. And, our guys rally around that too, our guys want him to be aggressive. Maybe that’s a factor, it’s not just me in the last couple of months, it’s his teammates. They want him to shoot and get mad at him when he turns one down. “
The Gators are currently number 24 in the country and hold a 12-3 record with a very impressive schedule so far this season. Justin Leon and KeVaughn Allen are big reasons for the success.