Every athlete recovers from injury differently but as far as Florida Gators freshman guard Michael Frazier II and junior forward Will Yeguete are concerned, the respective processes have been rather quick.
Frazier, who suffered a concussion on Feb. 23 against Arkansas, missed just one contest and struggled in his first contest back with Florida but returned to normal on Wednesday as the Gators clinched the outright regular-season 2013 SEC Championship at home against Vanderbilt.
“I thought he played well. I thought the two days of practice going into the Vanderbilt game really helped him,” head coach Billy Donovan said.
Frazier admitted Thursday that he was much more comfortable Wednesday as evidenced by his 2-for-3 shooting performance from beyond the arc and final line of six points and six rebounds.
“It was my second game back and I felt like I was more in the flow of things,” he said. “My first game back, I kind of felt out of it. Even though I only missed one game, I did not feel like myself. I think [Wednesday] night I played like I usually play.”
Like Frazier, Yeguete rebounded from his injury rather quickly. Dealing with knee issues all season, Yeguete finally decided to undergo arthroscopic surgery on Feb. 8 just three days after leaving Florida’s Feb. 5 contest at Arkansas after playing just one minute. Though he was originally given a timetable of 4-6 weeks, Yeguete recovered in three (missing only five games) and returned to the court on March 3 against Alabama.
Unlike Frazier, Yeguete has yet to return to form and has only totaled four points and five rebounds in 23 combined minutes over the last two games.
“It’s not easy, but I’m getting better every game, getting used to playing and going up and down and stuff. It’s a process. … I’m just going to be patient, keep practicing every day and get better,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy every single day I have and make sure I have a lot of fun out there. I’m really thankful and appreciative for what I have and I’m really blessed to be here.”
Yeguete appears limited vertically following his surgery – struggling to rebound the ball at its highest point and suffering offensilvey – but Donovan brushed off that notion on Thursday and instead chocked up his player’s struggles to not being in game shape yet.
“I don’t view him as a great leaper. I don’t think he’s ever been a great leaper. I think he’s been somebody that has a real instinct and knack to come up with loose basketballs. I’m not so sure that right now at this point in time he’s got his timing back from an offensive perspective, but I still think with the kind of players he’s been, he’s always impacted the game for us by doing a lot of that things that you probably can’t look at on a stat sheet and see,” he said.
“Whether it’s keeping a ball alive or deflecting it or post defense or taking a charge or rotating defensively or guarding the pick and roll. He’s always had a knack for being around the ball, but I wouldn’t say that he’s a guy that, from a rebounding perspective, plays way above the rim. That’s never really been his game. It’s been more of an instinctive [game]. He’s a strong, physical player. He’s a tough kid. And I still think he can do those things. He should be back doing those things quicker than he should be maybe back in the flow offensively. But he’s never been a great scorer or a great shooter for us or that kind of player. It’s the other things he’s done for us.”
Yeguete admitted that he was worried to play with full effort in his first game back. “I was afraid but [Wednesday] I wasn’t afraid. It took me a while to get going. I have to make sure I’m ready to go whenever I step on the court.”
He did say, however, that the knee brace he is wearing is restricting his movement and likely will for the remainder of the 2012-13 campaign.
“I feel like I’m not as free as I want to be because my knee is compressed. I’m getting better. I’m getting used to it, practicing and just going up and down, trying not to worry about it or think about it,” he said.
“I think I’m going to have to wear it and get used to it. I don’t think Duke [trainer Dave Werner] is going to let me go out there without a knee brace. I don’t think it’s safe at all, so I think I’m going to be wearing it the whole year.”
Donovan reiterated that Yeguete’s knee is feeling fine, he is “getting stronger and stronger” each day and there have “not been any effects from the surgery and being back playing.” Yeguete remains cleared to play as many minutes as Donovan wishes but those will likely be dictated by how he looks on the court.
With one game left in the regular season and the Gators gearing up for what the team hopes will be a long postseason, Frazier knows Florida is going to rely on its bench to make major contributions down the stretch this year.
“We’re going to need our bench to step up,” he said. “Going late into the tournament, we’re going to need those legs for our starters to [rest and for the bench to] come in and be able to produce.”