GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida basketball coach Mike White has had numerous conversations with sharpshooting guard KeVaughn Allen during their three seasons together, always with the same message.
Be more aggressive.
After Allen took only 3 shots in 29 minutes on Wednesday night in a loss at Tennessee, going scoreless for the first time since midway through his freshman season, White said he had his longest conversation yet with the junior guard.
It may be the final stretch of their third season together, but White isn’t giving up on emphasizing that same message to Allen.
“No, I’m swinging away,” White said Friday. “The days run together, but I think it was [Thursday], we met for a long, long time. The longest meeting we’ve had, just trying to encourage him, trying to challenge him. His teammates are trying to challenge him. Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes met with him as well. The two guys he’s closest with. They had a long powwow.
“I can’t express it any more clearly that we’ve got to have him be aggressive for us. Every team in this league has guys that have to be aggressive for them, whether they make 10 in a row or miss 10 in a row. He’s got to be aggressive offensively, defensively. He’s got to be assertive; he’s got to be confident. I continue to remind him that when he’s playing aggressively, at times he’s as good as most guards in the country. I believe in him, and I’m going to keep encouraging him.”
Allen was tabbed a preseason first-team All-SEC pick, but he is averaging a career-low 10.8 points per game and has seemed to take a back seat this season to more aggressive offensive guards such as Jalen Hudson, Egor Koulechov and point guard Chris Chiozza.
He has had seven games with 5 points or fewer this season after having only three such games as a sophomore, and he’s only reached double digits in points in one of Florida’s last five games.
White said it was hard to know how the message was received by Allen, who is at all times stoic and soft-spoken.
But he is hoping the same player who scored 35 against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16 last season and who had a season-high 28 against Arkansas in January will resurface down the stretch as the Gators try to secure their place in the NCAA Tournament.
“Have you had a conversation with KeVaughn? I mean, he’s a wonderful kid, ‘Yes, sir, OK.’ There’s not a lot of questions. There’s just more staring at each other,” White said when asked what response he got from this last meeting.
“I love him, he’s the best, just so reserved and he’s just, it’s hard to get him excited, as you guys know. But we’ve been here a few times before. When you least expect it, boom, he just goes and gets the Gators 25. I’m hoping that’s coming soon.”