Kasey Hill has been much maligned over the total of his career. The former McDonald’s All-American didn’t live up to that hype through more than two and a half years of his career here at Florida. Certainly there were glimpses of his potential,
By the time the Gators hit post season hit last year, Hill seemed to be a changed man. He played at a level the Gators hadn’t seen from him yet and was the definite Team MVP down the stretch.
There has been a game or two where he has struggled this year, but Hill’s performance so far demands respect from his teammates and others that watch and so he was the first to take charge when the team needed to be called to order a couple of weeks ago.
“Kasey talked a lot. John Egbunu talked a lot,” White said of the team meeting. “Some of our older guys — Devin (Robinson) talked a lot, Canyon (Barry) — and they just recommitted to each other; to play for each other; recommitted to rebound and defend at the highest level possible. Funny, we’ve been really good in those areas the last four, and it’s led to good offense as well.”
Hill blew off his part of the meeting, but did think it was very productive.
“It was just a meeting where things needed to be said, and we said them, and everybody listened,” Hill said. “Everybody had a little something to say. Everybody said the right thing. Nobody was just talking. Everybody said the right thing, and everybody was listening."
Hill has embraced a leadership role, something you want from your starting point guard.
“I’m just doing what the team needs me to do,” he said. “If things need to be said, I'm gonna say it. And that goes for anybody on the team. Anybody can say whatever they want if they feel like they need to say it and it's going to help the team."
Being able to say what they feel and not worry about others taking it the wrong way s tough to do in a team setting. Yet this team has formed a bond in part because they have played on the road so much this year. In the pre-conference schedule, the Gators had to play away from home in all but one game due to the O’Connell Center renovation. All of that time on busses and planes and in hotels together seems to have really paid off. The chemistry was compared to that of the 2014 team with a group of older players that all played a lot together.
“We have great chemistry,” he said when asked to compare the two groups. “It’s a little bit different because those guys were all together, Pat (Young), Casey (Prather), and Will (Yeguete); they were together for four years. Chemistry wise, like wanting to be around each other, I think this team is very similar to that team.”
“It definitely was a process. Without those road games I am not sure we would be this close honestly, but they definitely helped us grow as we were around each other.”
Hill’s shot has been falling lately. Shooting has not been his strong suit, but the Gators have won the last four games in maybe the most convincing style of any four game streak in team history, and Hill making shots causes a real issue for other teams.
“It makes it harder to guard the rest of our team because I can get guys open shots, and they have to help, and other guys will be open, and we have great shooters and good bigs that'll finish, too,” he said. “Everything opens up when you're making shots. That doesn't go just for me, that goes for everybody. But, it's definitely fun to make shots."
Georgia Up Tuesday…
The Gators (18-5, 8-2 SEC) take on Georgia (13-10, 4-6 SEC) in Athens on Tuesday and the Bulldogs were more than a hand full the last time out. Just before the two game losing streak to South Carolina and Vanderbilt, the Gators beat Georgia in overtime at home. Now they are playing at their place and it won’t be easier.
“They almost beat us,” Hill said. “We didn’t play well. If Canyon didn’t hit a couple of four-point plays we probably would have lost that game. We just have to keep in mind that they almost beat us here at home and we have to go to their place.”
The Gators have played well on the road almost every time out. But with four lopsided wins in a row, do they still have enough left in the tank for the Bulldogs?
“We’ll be ready to play… go practice hard today and get ready,” he said.