For the last two seasons, Florida Gators seniors Patric Young and Will Yeguete shared a similar quality. Both players had obvious bright spots to their respective game but struggled mightily in other areas. While many of those characteristics still remain, the players are trending in different directions due to changes in their bodies.
Young, for example, was a terrific post defender and sometimes dominant post scorer but gave inconsistent effort and did not rebound well enough for his position. Yeguete also played great defense and did all the dirty work, putting forth enough effort for two players, but had an offensive game that only consisted of cleaning up around the basket. Neither player could shoot free throws.
In their final year at Florida, Young has been steadily improving while Yeguete seems stuck in a rut at times. And the transformation of both players is quite easy to explain.
Though Young is holding right along his career averages in nearly every statistical category, he has shown up for the Gators in the last six games by in scoring double figures four times and grabbing at least six boards in each contest.
Young has also improved his motor and kept his head better in the game, only committing eight total turnovers in that span.
Head coach Billy Donovan credits his center’s emergence to a number of factors including his weight and overall focus.
“I think he’s totally different. I think he’s having his best year,” Donovan said on Monday. “I think he’s playing very well. … I think one thing that’s helped him is going from 250 pounds to 240 pounds. I think he’s in better condition. I think he’s running the floor better. I think he’s chasing balls better. I think he’s doing a lot more things that we would like to see him do that maybe were missing the last couple years.”
Donovan continued: “He’s a big, strong kid. But I think his motor and his energy has been much, much better this year at this point in time than he was in previous years.”
Yegeute, on the other hand, does not look like his old self. Though he is still bringing in 5.2 boards per contest, he’s averaging fewer rebounds per minute than he has at any point in his career and is only hitting 37 percent of his shots from the field.
He is not coming down with as many jump balls, does not have the same explosion on loose balls and has missed more layups than Donovan wishes to count.
These trends are not the fault of Yeguete’s mind but rather his body, which is still recovering from offseason knee surgery, the third time he’s gone under the knife in two seasons. The health issues have limited his athleticism and overall ability to be the scrappy player that made him a fan favorite at UF.
“It’s a little frustrating. I talked to Coach D a few weeks ago and we sat down and talked about it and everything. But, I mean, there’s nothing I can do,” said Yeguete on Monday. “I’ve just got to…I’ve got games left. I’ve got to take it one game at a time, one day at a time and I think I’ll be fine.”
Donovan thinks Yeguete, who claims to be “feeling better” as of late, is coming along and will hopefully be able to make some gains over the latter half of the regular season.
“I think Will’s getting stronger, getting more confident,” he said.
Yeguete, when healthy, can be an X-factor for the Gators, the type of player that can change the course of a game on a dime due to his effort and high basketball intellect.
If Florida can get that Yeguete back, coupled with a more consistent and harder working Young, it could go a long way to helping the team get past the Elite Eight roadblock that has haunted it over each of the last three seasons.