RECRUITING: Catching up with Kitchen

Midnight Madness boasted the likes of plenty celebrities. While the thousands in attendance enjoyed the company of William Hung, Women's Head Coach Carolyn Peck and SEC high jump champion Mike Morrison, it was the several few sitting behind the Gator bench that were of extreme importance to the Billy Donovan's staff.

Several recruits were in attendance including all of the current 2005 class. Derwin Kitchen, a 6'3" 180 lb shooting guard out of William M. Raines High School in Jacksonville, FL, committed to UF in early July and since then has been focusing on improving his game for his senior year.

As a sophomore, he helped lead his team to the 5-A state finals. As a junior, Kitchen proved to be a solid defender with good range on his jumper. With a summer to prepare for his senior year, Kitchen has been focusing on plenty, he said.

"The thing that I have been trying to improve upon the most is my defense," Kitchen said. "Getting stronger and become more of a team leader is something I want to accomplish this year."

His commitment to Donovan and staff is very solid and he told this to Gator Country upon his decision.

"I built a great relationship with Coach Donovan and a bunch of the assistants," he said. "It was also important that the school is only 1 hour and 30 minutes away. I visited the school probably 10 times."

With that in mind, his most recent visit to Midnight Madness was enjoyable and fun. Kitchen plans to make it to several Gator games this year on the weekends when he doesn't have games to attend, he said.

Kitchen didn't do the "YMCA" or sway his arms to "She Bangs," but he did manage to talk to Donovan about the class of 2005.

"We really didn't talk about anything personal," Kitchen said. "Coach Donovan and I talked about the guys he was recruiting in the state of Florida and also the couple guys out of state."

Kitchen got to soak in the 8-minute scrimmage that the Gators 2004 squad put on and felt confident in how the team would do this year.

"I'm predicting them to do really good this year," he said. "They are kind of young and they got some experienced players on the team, but they just got to make it out of the first round."

When asked who he compared his current game style to in the pros, Kitchen thought about it before throwing out the names of tenacious Detroit Piston defender and scoring threat Richard "Rip" Hamilton.

His Jacksonville Raines team is no slouch either with a No. 12 ranking in the nation, he said.

"We are conditioning right now, but we look pretty decent out there," Kitchen said. "We got to make sure to perform to our ranking for this year."

As part of the 2005 class, Kitchen will have his senior year to improve upon his game before stepping foot in Gainesville. With his proximity to Hogtown, look for Kitchen to become a fixture, much like current Gator Cornelius Ingram was, during 2004 weekend tip offs.

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