Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Homecoming Knight; Mandarin Graduate Gaynor off to a Fast Start with UCF

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Homecoming Knight; Mandarin Graduate Gaynor off to a Fast Start with UCF

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF ELLIOTT

A year ago at this time, P.J. Gaynor and some of his Mandarin High School basketball teammates would venture over to Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena to watch a Jacksonville University basketball game.

Gaynor will be back at the arena today, but he'll be on the court this time instead of sitting in the grandstands, playing for Central Florida against Florida in front of close to 100 family members, friends and former teammates.

The 6-foot-9 forward, who was recruited by JU, averages about 18 minutes a game for the Knights. He says it's been a big adjustment to college basketball, but he credits his early success to tough workouts under Mandarin coach Terry McCarter.

"I love it at UCF and things are going real good so far," he said by phone earlier this week. "It's a lot of fun, but a lot of hard work, too. Fortunately, coach McCarter gave me a great foundation with the right work ethic when I was at Mandarin. He pushed us hard and we did a lot of running."

Gaynor has also had to make adjustments off the court.

"It's a lot tougher academically here," he said. "The college classes are definitely harder than what I had in high school. But I've got a good academic adviser and I have eight hours of study hall a week. That really helps."

UCF coach Kirk Speraw knew Gaynor, as well as the other six freshmen on the Knights' roster this season, would have difficulties in adapting to college on the court and in the classroom.

"P.J.'s going through all the normal freshman issues that a majority of freshmen go through, like managing your time academically and athletically," Speraw said. "You deal with a lot of new issues with your school work and then you add in the basketball side of it and all the things that go on there, and I'm sure he feels that everywhere he moves, it's the wrong spot. …

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