Twelve days after tests for mononucleosis came back negative, Florida Gators sophomore guard Michael Frazier II was diagnosed with the rather serious ailment and ruled out of action indefinitely.
It is assured that Frazier will not play in Friday night’s exhibition game against Florida Southern and chances are the team will also hold him out – at least – for the season opener against North Florida on Nov. 8 at 3 p.m.
Missing both contests would give Frazier two full weeks of recovery time before Florida travels to Madison, WI, to square off with Wisconsin on Nov. 12 at 9 p.m.
Frazier was initially cleared of mono and returned to practice but felt ill again Sunday night, according to Florida. A second set of tests came back positive, and the Gators announced his absence of an undetermined length on Wednesday.
Eighth-ranked Florida has been dealing with plenty of adversity this offseason. Senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) and junior guard Eli Carter (leg) are both limited in practice while coming off of surgeries.
Redshirt junior center Damontre Harris and senior G/F Casey Prather have both been limited with hamstring injuries. Harris is also trying to get back into shape after missing the entire 2012-13 season.
Redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith “strained a tendon” in his ankle last week and joined sophomore G Dillon Graham, who sprained his ankle the previous week, on the bench. Graham’s ankle injury appears to be the more serious of the two.
Additionally, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin will be suspended for an unannounced number of games to start the season – likely at least a handful. He was indefinitely suspended all summer for a violation of team rules but returned to the team when fall practice began. Wilbekin has drawn rave reviews for his play thus far.
All of these obstacles have created an opportunity for sophomore G DeVon Walker, a player who initially announced he was transferring off the Gators basketball team in the offseason before reversing course and deciding to stick things out in Gainesville, FL.
Walker was expecting to redshirt for 2013-14 but was asked by head coach Billy Donovan last week if he would consider playing a significant role instead. According to Florida’s website, Walker has been the best three-point shooter in fall practice and has made significant strides since nearly transferring late in the spring.
“He told me that I had a chance to play this season – and not just five minutes here or choppy minutes there,” Walker said, according to the school. “He told me I could actually contribute, that he believed in me, but that he’d understand whatever I wanted to do.”
As it turns out, Walker will almost certainly be starting for the Gators in their exhibition game on Friday. Joining him in the backcourt will be freshman PG Kasey Hill, a five-star prospect who will try to wrestle the starting point guard job away from Wilbekin.
With a tough non-conference schedule ahead – one that includes the likes of Florida State, UConn, Kansas and Memphis in addition to the road contest at Wisconsin – how well Florida navigates the waters and deals with adversity will go a long way to determining whether the team will ultimately be successful over the long run this season.