Updated at 5:30 p.m.
Already missing one role player, the No. 10 Florida Gators will now be without a starting point guard for the team’s season opener on Friday as junior Scottie Wilbekin has been suspended indefinitely by head coach Billy Donovan.
Wilbekin, who spent his first two years with the Gators as a reserve but was set to open the season as the starter following the departure of Erving Walker, did not make the trip with Florida to Jacksonville, FL for the team’s game against the Georgetown Hoyas in the Navy/Marine Corps Classic.
“I think any time publicly when you [suspend a player], I think a lot of times it can get to a point where I think a really good kid is portrayed in a very poor way, and Scottie is a great kid who I think made some choices and did some things that I’m not going to have him a part of. How long it lasts, I don’t know. Right now, I just felt like he didn’t need to be here on this trip and didn’t need to be playing in this game,” Donovan said.
“Really, it was my decision this morning to do that after finding out some information on some things. I made a decision. … We were leaving at 8:30 this morning. I made a decision about 8:00 or 8:15 this morning when I got the information. Like all these guys are in college, they’re all growing and maturing and trying to make decisions and get better and find out and discover who they want to be as people. I think Scottie will learn from this; he’ll grow from this. I think he’ll be better from it.”
He continued, “None of us are immune from making mistakes and making poor choices and doing things. I think sometimes a person’s actions or a decision a person makes doesn’t say who the person is all the way around. I think Scottie is a good person with a good heart whose got to be responsible and accountable and committed in every area of his life to play for our team. I think he’s got to grow and mature and, in a lot of ways, that’s what college is for.”
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Senior Kenny Boynton, Florida’s starting shooting guard, will replace Wilbekin at point. Redshirt senior Mike Rosario is expected to shift over to the two with junior forward Will Yeguete likely entering the starting lineup. Freshman G Michael Frazier should be the first player off the bench for the Gators but could also theoretically be moved into the starting lineup at the two.
“Kenny has had the opportunity a lot in practice to play the point guard spot. He has. He had a chance to do some of it his freshman year and sparingly his sophomore and junior year,” Donovan explained. “I really have confidence in Kenny back there. I have confidence he knows what I want. I think he can run our team. I think he understands that there’s going to be maybe a different role for us and him. … He’s got to understand what’s going on in the game – when to shoot, when to pass.”
Donovan did not get into specifics Thursday about the nature of Wilbekin’s suspension other than to tell reporters at a press conference that the player made an uncharacteristic decision, is remorseful and will “learn and grow” from his actions.
“Very, very remorseful; feels very, very bad. Internally, really, really hurt by it,” he said when explaining Wilbekin’s response to his actions and subsequent suspension. “I think he took responsibility, accepted being accountable, and I think he understands. He understands.”
Donovan also discussed how he came to his decision to suspend Wilbekin.
“You’ve got a group of 12 other guys that are looking to see how a coach is going to respond of what’s right and what’s wrong. This was the right decision, in my opinion, to have him not be a part of this game because he needs to understand there’s a level of accountability and responsibility that he has being part of this team,” he said. “It was my decision. He could have played [Friday], but because of my team being aware of it and me being aware of it … it was left up to me to make the decision and I made the decision because I think it was right for Scottie and I think it was right for our team.
“It’s important for our guys to understand there’s a commitment you have to make each and every day – on the court, off the court, in school and in every aspect of your life you’ve got to do that.”
UF is down three players overall heading into Friday’s game as junior G/F Casey Prather is out due to suffering a concussion in each of the last two weeks and redshirt sophomore F Cody Larson decided to quit the team on Oct. 26.