If Florida Gators junior forward Will Yeguete‘s surgically scoped right knee continues to heal at the same rate, the high-energy game-changer off the bench may be able to return to the court as soon as March 2 or March 6, head coach Billy Donovan said while meeting with the media on Thursday.
Yeguete has been out of action since he played one minute on the road at Arkansas on Feb. 5. before being forced to leave the game due to knee pain. He had been dealing with tendinitis all season long but played through it up to that point. Three days later, after an MRI revealed that there were bone chips floating around in his knee joint, Yeguete went under the knife for arthriscopic knee surgery.
Team doctors told Donovan at the time that Yeguete’s timetable would be 4-6 weeks. If he was to recover as quickly as possible, Yeguete was informed that he could potentially returned for Florida’s regular 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.
Now it appears as if Yeguete may return earlier than the initial timetable suggested.
“Right now, Yeguete is doing some light running, which is a good sign. I think he’s ahead of schedule from where we first thought it was going to be,” Donovan said. “The biggest thing right now for him is going to be – once he gets into the flow of running, exercising, doing non-contact stuff – what happens to his knee? Does it continue to swell again? That’s what they’ll have to take [into account].
“But he’s way on target and way ahead of schedule right now in terms of where he should be. He’s way ahead of that. Now we’re getting into the difficult part right now, for him, where we’re going to see how his knee is in terms of swelling once he starts running and doing those things.”
He continued, “Potentially, if the doctors clear him, there’s probably an outside chance that he could maybe play the last three games of the year. There’s a possibility of that; I’m not saying there’s a guarantee of that. A lot is going to depend on how he responds. He’s moving quicker then I think what the doctors thought. It’s going to be totally up to them. … There is a chance, an outside chance, that he could be back maybe as early as the Vanderbilt game.”
UF takes on Alabama in its third-to-last game of the regular season on March 2. Four days later, Vanderbilt comes to town for a contest on March 6. The Gators conclude with an away game at Kentucky on March 9.
Including the away contest against Arkansas on Feb. 5, Florida is 3-2 over its last five games with Yeguete on the shelf. Already shallow in the frontcourt, the Gators are even more undersized and overmatched with him out of action.
This season, Yeguete is second on the team in rebounding with a career-best average of 6.3 per game while continuing to be a spark plug off the bench. He is also the Gators’ best post defender and is averaging career-highs in points (6.0), field goal percentage (.582) and free throw percentage (.571).
Getting him back with 2-3 games left in the regular season would allow Florida to shake the rust off one of its most important players before entering postseason play. Yeguete would be able to regain his comfort level before the SEC Tournament and could theoretically be 100 percent before the NCAA Tournament begins.
Because he missed the entire 2011-12 postseason with a broken foot, Yeguete took news of his latest injury quite hard two weeks ago. He will undoubtedly be ready and raring to go for the Gators whenever doctors officially clear him to play.