By T.J. Vickers
Next year, Florida’s front court could look completely different as plenty of new faces will be coming into the program. One of the fresh faces on the team will be Suwannee (Live Oak) 6’9 senior Kevarrius Hayes.
Hayes, who is averaging 19.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, is a high motor player who can gallop down the floor. This suits Billy Donovan’s system well, which Hayes references.
“I like the play style,” he noted. “Florida is always fast-paced and they go with the flow as long as everything is working right. Coach Donovan is a great coach and I’m looking forward to being under his leadership.”
Hayes speaks from experience on Billy Donovan’s coaching style. He has been able to sit in and watch how Donovan runs his program during practice sessions.
“He actually works with players individually,” he explained. “He’s there at the practice helping push his players. He doesn’t leave it up to his assistant coaches. He actually gets involved. Not only does he help them become great players, he helps them grow to be great people.”
Hayes directly mentions Patric Young as a player who points to Donovan’s commitment to practice.
“Pat took everything Donovan had to offer him and turned it into something great,” he said.
Young might be a perfect person for Hayes to reference. Coming out of Providence High in Jacksonville, Young was listed as 6’10 and 225 pounds. Hayes is currently listed as 6’9, 200 pounds.
Hayes knows he is far from a finished product and he has many aspects of his game he would like to work on. He specifically mentions the importance of developing a post game.
“Develop more post moves,” he explained. “I’ve had a turn around jumper working for me but I’m trying to work on my hook shot and a mid range jumper.”
Hayes, who is shooting 57 percent shooting from the field during his senior season, is light on his feet and quick off the bounce. He runs the floor well for a big man, too. The Florida signee knows that at the next level he’ll need to utilize his hustle.
“Coach says I have a good motor so I could be a front court player,” he said. “I can play offense and defense on both ends and overall stay up tempo to keep the team going.”
Hayes is drawing crowds everywhere, whether he’s in the open court or in the half court. They all come to see him throw down a monster dunk, and most of the time Hayes does not disappoint. He has multiple highlight quality dunks, including some over rival Hamilton County (Jasper).
Only the Suwannee River separates Hamilton and Suwannee counties and Hayes has soared clear over the county border bridge to posterize anyone and everyone who dares to get under him. He has brought his home crowd to their feet many times but he prefers to dunk on the road.
“They’re all against you but when you dunk they don’t care what team you are on, they just cheer anyway,” he explained. “Some people forget who they are suppose to be cheering for because they’re all yelling. It’s kind of crazy.”
Before Hayes dons the orange and blue, Hayes is hoping to deliver the Bulldogs their first boys basketball state title in school history. He is the unquestioned leader of this team and the Bulldogs go as he goes. He knows his team has to be on top of its game come playoff time.
“I know as long as everyone is into the game and they’re playing to their best we have a good chance of winning,” he said.
This past week, Hayes reminded his teammates to stay locked into practice and make sure they prepare the right way. Suwannee, ranked 11th in the Prep Zone Power Poll, has a tendency to come out flat in games and Hayes knows in the playoffs they cannot afford another slow start.
“We have to make sure we make the easy lay ups and hit the open shots,” he noted. “We have to make sure that everyone is firing on all cylinders and we can get everyone running together. I think this year is one of the best chances we have at state.”
The Bulldogs begin their quest for a state title on the road after falling to Rickards (Tallahassee), 58-47, in the 5A-District 2 championship game at Rickards.
Suwannee (19-6), which fell out of the state rankings, have a tough first round game as the ‘Dogs open up the Class 5A playoffs at No. 5 Rutherford (Panama City) (23-3) on Thursday night. Tip off is set for 7 p.m. CST.