HOOPS RECRUITING: Kitchen off to hot start

By Eric Esteban +++++++++++++++++++++++++= Three weeks have passed since head coach Billy Donovan inked his 2005 recruiting class on Nov.10, and high school basketball teams around the state are gearing up for their season. One of Florida's top teams is Jacksonville Raines, expected to compete for a state and possible national title in the 4-A division behind the play of Florida signee Derwin Kitchen.

Kitchen headlines a Viking team that won the 5-A state title in 2003 and repeated that feat in the 4-A division in 2004. Kitchen, who sported an offer from current No.1 Wake Forest, was sold on the Gators because of their proximity to his home and the friendships he built.

"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 an hour and a half away."

With the Raines schedule already under way, Kitchen told Gator Country that he and his team haven't lost a step.

"We had a pretty good showing in the weekend showing in the weekend tournament at Raines," Kitchen said. "We won both of our games by more than 20 points."

Kitchen, a 6-3, 180-pound guard, is known as a hot shooting scorer. In three early victories he's lit it up for 18, 27 and 29 points.

With a much anticipated matchup against rival Jackson scheduled for Dec. 9, Kitchen isn't thinking too far into the future, instead just taking it one game at a time.

"We are going to come in like we always come in --- ready to play," he said. "Our offense has been doing really good lately, but our defense needs to improve."

Despite the fact that the Gators made a trip to in-state rival Jacksonville University for their season opener, Kitchen said he was unable to make it to the game because of prior engagements.

"I didn't get a chance to make it, but I'm definitely looking forward to getting to Gainesville," Kitchen said.

Kitchen sees improvement in every aspect of his game, but he is not satisfied with where his game is now, instead he's continuing to work hard every day.

"I want to be more of a leader both on and off the court and am working on improving my defensive strength," he added.

With Kitchen committed to the Gators and excelling with the Vikings, Gator Country will continue to keep fans updated on Kitchen's progress as he leads his team's quest for a third straight state championship.

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