For the second-straight year, Florida Gators junior forward Will Yeguete will have his season cut short with a serious injury. How long he will be out, however, remains to be seen and a return in time for postseason play apparently remains a possibility.
Head coach Billy Donovan announced Thursday that Yeguete will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Friday as it was determined by an MRI that there were bone chips floating around in the joint.
“He’s going to need surgery. He’s going to be out…probably best case scenario he’s probably out for the remainder of at least the regular season and probably we’ll reevaluate it then,” Donovan said. “He’s had some significant swelling over the last several weeks. He’s got some floating chips and cartilage in there, which we knew beforehand that was there but it’s not anything that’s putting him necessarily in jeopardy of playing. It was more how he could play with the chips floating around.
“A lot of it was based on pain; he wasn’t in a lot of pain. But I think because those chips were floating around, they’ve probably gotten into different parts of his knee that had just put him in a situation where I think that the treatment going forward is not what we need to do. He’s going to have some arthroscopic surgery to have it cleaned out. He’ll probably do that here at the end of the week.”
He will be out of action for 4-6 weeks while doctors and trainers evaluate his recovery. A return to the court would be Yeguete’s decision once he is cleared to play.
“I can’t believe this is happening, this must be a nightmare….” he tweeted Wednesday.
The Gators will hold out hope that he can come back at some point during the postseason. If Yeguete recovers as quickly as possible, he could potentially return for Florida’s season finale at Kentucky on March 9. Should his injury take six full weeks to heal, he would miss the entire SEC Tournament but have the opportunity to come back for the NCAA Tournament.
“Right now for him, the best thing for him is to just get it resolved, get it taken care of and hopefully get him back,” Donovan added.
Yeguete was injured around the same time last year when he broke his foot during a home game against Auburn on Feb. 21. UF lost three-straight games (in large part due to his absence) but recovered to make a run in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
This season, Yeguete is second on the Gators in rebounding with a career-best average of 6.3 per game while continuing to be a spark plug off the bench for UF. He is also Florida’s best post defender and is also averaging career-highs in points (6.0), field goal percentage (.582) and free throw percentage (.571).
“I feel bad for Will,” Donovan said. “I feel more disappointed for him because I think he’s worked hard, he’s a good kid, he’s obviously made a huge impact on our team. He’s a guy that does things for our team that not a lot of guys do. He’s a great defender. He’s a great rebounder. He gives you a lot of flexibility on the defensive end of the floor of different things you can do from pressing to half-court defense to switching to having him guard certain players.
“That’s going to be definitely a loss. That’s just part of competing; it’s part of playing. Guys are going to get hurt, that happens. I feel more, not so much for our team, but I feel bad for him just because of going through his foot injury last year.”
Yeguete’s loss will hit the Gators hard as the team is already incredibly thin in the frontcourt. Florida will look to junior Casey Prather, who is still hobbled by an high-ankle sprain, to fill in for him. Freshmen guards Michael Frazier II and DeVon Walker will both see increased playing time while Yeguete is out of action.
“Any time you lose a player on your team, it always hurts,” Donovan said, “but this is not something that we are unaccustomed to dealing with this year. … This is another guy that we’ll be without.
“A bigger concern for me – [Yeguete’s] situation is what it is – Prather is still not healthy. We’ve become a very, very thin basketball team depth-wise. that’s probably more of a challenge because we’re not really getting anything out of Casey right now. He’s missed so much time … what we can get out of him I really don’t know.”