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Boynton is now complete

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Kenny Boynton's progression toward being a complete player was, surprisingly, slowed a bit by his offense.

A prolific scorer in high school, Boynton's offensive game didn't flourish in his first two seasons at Florida. He was OK -- averaging 14.0 points as a freshman and 14.2 as a sophomore -- but it was his defense, especially his ability to go one-on-one with the opponent's best backcourt player, that made him so valuable.

After two years of Southeastern Conference play, Boynton's offensive game has evolved to match his defense. The 6-foot-2 junior guard is leading the 14th-ranked Gators (12-3) in scoring (19.5 points per game) and his shooting 46.7 percent from 3-point range is well above his career average.

He is finally the complete player that UF coach Billy Donovan envisioned when he signed Boynton out of Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage.

"When he got here as a freshman, he was such a prolific scorer, and he did it from behind the [3-point] line," Donovan said. "I think he went through a great learning process where he had a chance to play a lot as a freshman, and last year I think he added some different things. I think right now offensively he's becoming more and more complete.

"His assist-to-turnover ratio is really good. He's making pull-up mid-range jump shots. He's making runners."

Boynton has scored 20 or more points in a game nine times this season -- which equals the number of times he did it as a freshman and two more times than last season. He is averaging 24.0 points and shooting 56 percent from 3-point range (14-for-25) in his last three games.

Boynton's scoring average in the SEC is second only to Vanderbilt's John Jenkins (20.5 ppg). Plus, he's turning the ball over only 1.5 times per game while averaging 3.1 assists per game. But it's his shooting -- particularly from 3-point range -- that has really improved. Boynton shot 58 percent from the field as a high school senior, but he didn't shoot better than 38.5 percent in his first two seasons at UF.

He shot less than 30 percent from 3-point range as a freshman and 33.1 percent last season, but this season his 3-point field goal percentage (46.7) is second in the SEC to Arkansas' Mardracus Wade (50.0).

He has shot worse than 40 percent from 3-point range this season only five times, and he has made at least one 3-pointer in every game this season to extend his streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer to 31. That's seven shy of Lee Humphrey's school record.

Some of those have been pretty deep, too.

"I feel like when I hit one I can stretch out my range a little bit," Boynton said.

And his teammates feel that when he hits one, there's a bunch more coming.

"Once he gets hot, he doesn't cool off, really," forward Erik Murphy said. "It's crazy. Once he hits his first one or two, I feel like every one is going in after that. When he heats up, there's not much you can do about it."

UF's last two opponents -- Yale and UAB -- found that out. Boynton hit 11 3-pointers combined in those victories.

Donovan said Boynton has done a much better job of understanding shot selection and being patient and feeling out the defense early in the game before figuring out what he needs to do offensively. That, more than anything else, has been the key to his improvement, Donovan said.

"The biggest thing he's doing right now is he's finally realized how long a game is, and even to start the game he kind of just was biding his time, didn't really force anything, very patient, relaxed," Donovan said. "The adjustment Kenny's made over the couple years, what shots to take and what shots not to take ... he's really grown in a lot of ways."

Boynton's offensive development has not come at the expense of his defense. He's still matching up with the other team's top backcourt player, and he's still putting forth just as much effort on defense as always.

"It's very tiring [to have to cover the best player and score [offensively], but I don't think I had a great, great challenge like the SEC yet," Boynton said. "I think the teams we've played, I've been lucky so far. A team like Vanderbilt with John Jenkins, where I have to run around all game, that's very tiring."

His luck runs out on Saturday. The Gators open SEC play at Tennessee (7-7), and Boynton likely will draw Trae Golden, the Vols' leading scorer (14.8 ppg), or Jordan McRae (10.9 ppg). His teammates aren't expecting any drop-off offensively despite the bigger challenge.

"I take my hat off to him, because he has to play both ends of the floor hard," guard Bradley Beal said. "Everybody feeds off his defense, because he really gets after it."

Now he's getting after it on offense, too.

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.