Kadji Plans to Step Up

Gator basketball coach Billy Donovan spoke Monday about his freshmen and how their practice performances resemble a wavy line, which is not unusual. The transition from high school to college can be challenging, particularly when you consider the length of the season. The Gators began practice in mid-October and hope to still be playing more than five months later.

One of those freshmen truly exemplifies what Donovan was referring to. Center Kenny Kadji (6-10) has had more than his share of ups and downs in his first collegiate season. Kadji averaged just 2.4 points in Florida's first eight games, but upped that to 7.9 points in his next 11 collegiate outings. However, in true rookie form, the last few games have not gone well for Kadji. He has scored just four points total against Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina.

Florida needs the native of Cameroon to get back on track with Allan Chaney out for perhaps a month. I sat down with Kadji on Monday to talk about that and this team's upcoming trip to Lexington's Rupp Arena.

LV: How do you feel about your first trip to Rupp Arena?

KK: "It's pretty exciting. They have a really good team and they have a pretty good center in Patrick Patterson and they pair him with Jodie Meeks so I'm pretty excited about that. Plus it's our rivalry game so I'm pretty anxious about the atmosphere and how people are going to act."

LV: Not only that but they are one game behind you in the SEC East so you need to win to stay on top of the division.

KK: "Yeah, we're thinking about that too. We're 6-2 and they are 5-3 so I know it's a big game for them too because they just lost three. They kind of have their back on the wall and they want to play great against Florida."

LV: What are your thoughts about playing against a guy like Patterson who is probably the best low post scorer in the SEC?

KK: "It's going to be a great challenge defensively. He's a great player and I think he's the best center in our league. We have to work hard and get position every time. We'll kind of rotate between me and Alex (Tyus) on him and try to wear him down."

LV: With Allan out do you feel more of an obligation to step up your game and play a bigger role?

KK: "Yeah, I think we all got to step up, me, Eloy (Vargas) and Ray (Shipman) now that Allan's out. He makes a big contribution to our team, but I think we'll be fine and we'll find a way.

LV: The last few games haven't been great for you and prior to that you were producing a lot more. What's been different lately and what do you have to do to get back to where you were scoring more points?

KK: "I think I'm just trying to find a vision of the offense. I obviously have not been as consistent as I want to be, but I'm just trying to find what the team needs from me. Right now it's much more rebounding and defense that I'm trying to do the most. Scoring will come from time to time so I'm not really worried about that."

LV: You guys are about to start the second half of the SEC schedule. You weren't here last year when the Gators struggled down the stretch. How much is that talked about; the need to finish strongly?

KK: "I think we talk about that every day, not just with the coaches but the players. We don't want that to happen and we know what we have to do. We can't rest because we're in first place. We just know right now we still have to play the better teams like Mississippi State, LSU and Kentucky (twice) and we have to come every day focused and ready to play."

Kenny Kadji could almost be viewed as Joakim Noah II. Like Noah, Kadji has ancestry in Cameroon, lived in France and speaks French fluently. Gators can only hope his sophomore and junior seasons resemble the ones Noah put together in Gainesville.

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