SEC Media Days report:

Allen puts it together for Gators

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, October 20, 2017
Florida's KeVaughn Allen answers questions during the Southeastern Conference men's NCAA college basketball media day Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Florida's KeVaughn Allen answers questions during the Southeastern Conference men's NCAA college basketball media day Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Florida guard KeVaughn Allen lets his game do most of the talking, but he made an appearance at SEC media days this week.

"I'm comfortable with the media now," Allen said. "I don't have a problem doing interviews."

Allen, a junior from North Little Rock, was voted to the All-SEC first team in a media poll after averaging a team-high 14.0 points last season along with 2.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists for Florida's 27-9 team that lost to South Carolina in the NCAA East Regional final. He scored a career-high 35 points against Wisconsin in a Sweet 16 matchup and made the all-regional team.

"I know KeVaughn gets some notoriety, but I think he's still one of the more under-appreciated guys in college basketball," Florida Coach Michael White said. "I really don't know why.

"Maybe because he's quiet? I'm not sure. But he's had huge games against good teams and he's still got a couple years left to continue to build his brand.

"He's a pleasure to coach every day."

Allen said he's not worried about not getting as much credit as he deserves for his play.

"It just makes me work harder," he said.

Allen said being voted to the All-SEC first team is a nice honor.

"I feel pretty good about it," he said. "I've just got to keep working to make it come true."

White said Allen came to Florida with the ability to score, but has improved his conditioning, expanded his game and become tougher mentally and physically.

"I wouldn't have categorized KeVaughn as a real tough guy early on," White said. 'He had some toughness, but now he's become very tough. He's just become a little bit older and wiser."

White said Allen now does "more dirty work" for the Gators in terms of defending and rebounding on a consistent basis.

"He's starting to lead a little bit, too," White said. "He's become more vocal. He's just become a better all-around player. He's terrific."

Danberry back Dec. 10

Jordan Danberry, who transferred from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville to Mississippi State last January, will be eligible to play her first game for the Bulldogs against the University of Arkansas-Little Rock on Dec. 10 in Starkville, Miss.

Mississippi State Coach Vic Schaefer said Danberry -- a junior guard from Conway -- will be an impact player for the Bulldogs.

"What an unbelievable athlete and a heck of a basketball player," Schaefer said. "Competitive, tough, and really quick. She is quick on quick. Excited about her."

Dykes returns to TV

Jimmy Dykes, Arkansas' women's basketball coach the previous three seasons, made a pretty seamless transition back to television work as part of the SEC Network's media days coverage.

Dykes said this week marked his 14th consecutive year at SEC media days: the first 10 with ESPN, the next three as a coach, and this year back as a television commentator.

"I was on the set for four hours and I felt like it took me about the first hour to get my groove going again," Dykes said. "But hopefully it's a little bit like riding a bike or swimming. You've done it for so long you still know how to do it, and you're talking about basketball, which I love."

Dykes, 54, said he'll work games as a color analyst for ESPN and the SEC Network and also do studio work for men's basketball. He'll call Kentucky's Blue-White scrimmage tonight on the SEC Network. His first regular-season game will be Nov. 10 when Iowa State plays at Missouri on ESPN.

"I've got a great relationship with all the coaches in the league," Dykes said. "I know they're very supportive of me coming back. I can't wait to get started."

ESPN announced earlier this week that it had re-hired Dykes, but he said there had been a verbal agreement for several months. He said ESPN officials contacted him about resuming his television career shortly after he resigned under pressure as Arkansas' coach March 3.

Dykes had a 43-49 record as the Razorbacks' coach, including 2-14 in SEC play last season. After his first team went to the NCAA Tournament and finished 18-14, Arkansas was 12-18 and 13-17 the next two seasons.

"I still say to this day, it was a great honor to be the head coach at my alma mater for three years," said Dykes, who was a walk-on at Arkansas. "I wish we would have won more games. We didn't, but I come out of it a better person. I know that."

Dykes has made his home in Northwest Arkansas for many years. He lives with his wife, Tiffany, and daughter, Kennedy, in Springdale in the same house he did when he worked for ESPN previously.

"I was talking to [Kentucky Coach] John Calipari about it," Dykes said. "I said, 'How many guys do you know work for ESPN, then go into coaching, and they don't have to move? Then they go from coaching back to ESPN and still don't have to move.

"That's me. Same house, same school system, same everything. Nothing's changed.

"It's just that now when I go to work instead of turning right to go to Bud Walton Arena, I turn left to go to the airport."

Willis improving

Vanderbilt Coach Bryce Drew said he's looking for Payton Willis, a sophomore guard from Fayetteville, to show significant improvement from his freshman season.

Willis averaged 5.2 points, 1.9 assists and 1.8 rebounds in 17.5 minutes playing in all 35 games last season.

"Payton's doing great," Drew said. "He really worked on his game in the offseason. He's gotten stronger, he's put on some weight. He's shooting the ball at a really high level.

"We view him as a guy that can come in and make a lot of shots very quickly. He's playing with a lot more confidence, a lot of assuredly about where the ball's supposed to go. He's been fun to coach."

Commodores senior guard Riley LaChance said Willis is more consistent in practice on a day-to-day basis.

"I think our team is good when he's on the floor," LaChance said. "He's not a freshman anymore. He's speaks up a little bit now and has taken on more of a leadership role."

Smith practicing

Missouri forward Mitchell Smith, a 6-10 sophomore from Van Buren, is practicing and has been cleared to play this season after suffering a season-ending knee injury 11 games into his freshman season.

Smith tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against LSU.

"He's performing well in practice," Missouri junior forward Kevin Puryear said. "He's put on about 15 pounds.

"His mid-range game is looking good. He's coming along really nicely. He's in a great shape. He's very capable of running the floor and making moves on the post."

Arkansas Bulldogs

Mississippi State has three players from Arkansas: senior guard Roshunda Johnson (Little Rock Parkview); junior guard Jordan Danberry (Conway); and freshman guard Bre'Amber Scott (Little Rock Central).

"I coached in Arkansas for six years at the U of A and made some tremendous friends," said Bulldogs Coach Vic Schaefer, a Razorbacks assistant from 1998-2003. "That state, from a high school coaching standpoint, they do a great job. So kids coming out of that state are always prepared and they're very fundamental.

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"It's been a great state for me recruiting at a number of places. We're going to continue to try to dip in there a little bit."

Sports on 10/20/2017

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