With No. 9/10 Florida Gators (12-2, 2-0 SEC) set to begin a challenging week of action including a road game at Texas A&M on Thursday and a home contest against Missouri on Saturday, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Monday to provide injury updates and discuss his team’s issues heading into its next two games.
The Gators are banged up. Juniors point guard Scottie Wilbekin (finger) and forward Erik Murphy (rib) are playing through broken bones, and junior F Will Yeguete (knee tendinitis) has also remained on the court while dealing with an incredibly sore and sometimes swollen joint. Donovan updated the statuses of two more players on Monday, noting that redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario (ankle sprain) will probably be back for Texas A&M but junior G/F Casey Prather (high-ankle sprain) is out for the game and will most likely be sidelined for at least “10-14 days” by the training staff’s best estimation. The injury is Prather’s third (concussions, split lip) this season.
“Rosario’s got an ankle sprain. I’ll probably find out a little more here this week of his availability for A&M. I would say that right now Prather is out. He’s not playing. It doesn’t look like it. He’s got a high-ankle sprain. We’ll have to see how he progresses. I’d say right now going into the A&M game, he’s probably out,” Donovan said. “Yeguete is still dealing with some tendinitis and swelling there [in his knee], so I don’t know how much we’ll get out of him here this week. Right now I would say that there’s a good chance that Rosario and Yeguete would play, and I would probably say Prather is out.”
He also said Yeguete’s injury may be worse than the team originally thought and that X-rays will be taken on Monday to determine if there is anything else going on in and around the joint aside from the tendinitis. Donovan said one other potential diagnosis may be chondromalacia, which is an irritation under the surface of the kneecap that can cause pain at the front and inner side of the knee. Any of these diagnoses would not keep Yeguete from playing; he would have to determine his own pain tolerance.
“It could be something more than [tendinitis]. We’re going to find that out [Monday],” he said. “I don’t know what else it would necessarily be. They just want to take an X-ray because he’s got some swelling in his knee. Whether or not it’s anything more than that, we’ll have to wait and see. The first diagnosis by our trainer and doctor was that it was tendinitis. It could be more than that. What? I don’t know.”
Though Florida has been injury-riddled this season, Donovan is impressed with the way the team has come together and fought with a limited lineup.
“The one thing that helps is we do have some experience. Really for this year, I think there’s probably only been two or three games this year for us out of our first 14 that we’ve had a full compliment compliment of players available to play,” he said. “It’s just been something you have to deal with. Injuries are part of the game. You have to e able to get your guys that are going to have to step up in different roles prepared to play how we’re going to need them to play to put ourselves in a position to win.”
Read the rest of this post…after the break!
400 ON THE HORIZON
Donovan is two victories away from registering his 400th as head coach of the Gators. That may very well come on Sunday when Florida hosts Missouri, which led Donovan to reflect on that eventual accomplishment on Monday.
“Obviously being here a long time, that stands out. What I would reflect back on is that I’ve been really fortunate to coach a lot of really good players. … I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve really coached some good, quality kids that have bought into Florida and bought into winning. Obviously being able to stay at one place this long, I think in today’s day and age is very difficult to do. Those things, from a coaching perspective, any accomplishments or win number or anything else, I always feel like that stuff is a total reflection on the guys you’re coaching.”
CHASING FLORIDA CAREER RECORDS
Senior G Kenny Boynton is setting one school all-time record after another and is currently making his way up the school’s career scoring list. Asked Monday about Boynton’s accomplishments, Donovan pointed to the player’s collegiate career and noted that it should be something that fills him with pride no matter what direction he goes in professionally after this season.
“So much in today’s day and age, everything is about the NBA. I understand why. I was no different than any player across the country of wanting to get to the NBA. But I also think there’s been maybe a change of philosophy so to speak as it relates to individual players where if you don’t get to the NBA as quickly or as fast as possible, or you don’t make it in the NBA, that people have a tendency to forget a guy’s college career and experience. I would say that Kenny Boynton, coming off of two NITs back-to-back, comes in as a freshman and we get back to the NCAA Tournament. His sophomore year we go to the Elite Eight; his junior year we go to the Elite Eight. Not only does he have these individual accomplishments that he’s chasing after, he’s affected winning a lot for our program. Regardless of what his future holds at the next level, I want for him to be able to walk through this experience and say, ‘You know what? I got better as a player. We won at Florida, and I’m proud of that accomplishment.’ … I hope Kenny will look at the fact that, ‘I had an incredible career at Florida,’ and he’ll have great, great pride in that and he’ll have a great sense of satisfaction. I hope he does.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan on if Rosario has lost weight from last season: “I’m not so sure he was ever in the shape last year that he’s in right now. … He’s playing well for us at this point in time. Obviously with this ankle injury right now, he’s been out of practice for a few days. I think he’s clearly a better player this year than he was a year ago for us.”
» Donovan on Florida’s defense improving: “I think we’re better for a couple reasons. One, any time you have a point guard the size of Erving Walker – as great as he was offensively for us – there were some limitations on the defensive end of the floor in man and zone because it is easier to shoot over him. Certainly trying to rebound defensively with a guy that small was difficult. I thought Erving caused a lot of problems at the other end of the floor just because he was so quick and fast and had such great range. Now you have Wilbekin playing a lot more minutes and he’s a bigger, stronger, more physical guard who can guard a lot of different people. I think that helps. I think last year playing with Brad Beal, as terrific as he was, I think being a freshman there were areas that he had to improve in defensively and he got better as the year went on. You got maybe some more experience there with a guy like Prather. Boynton’s been around. I think our team speed is maybe a little better than it was last year. We probably have a little bit more size, and I think we’re a little bit older.”
» Donovan said that even though freshman Dillon Graham saw some more minutes on Saturday, he may not necessarily always be the next in line to get playing time. Each game is different and the Gators’ needs in a particular contest may change so both DeVon Walker and Braxton Ogbueze could also see time depending on the situation.
» Donovan on judging teams too early in the season: “To say a team in March resembles themselves in November, I don’t think that’s always fair and equal.”