No. 19 Florida Gators (6-2) head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Monday, one day before his team hosts the No. 13 Kansas Jayhawks (6-2) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL as part of the Big 12-SEC Challenge. Florida and Kansas will square off on Tuesday at 7 p.m. live on ESPN.
POINT GUARDS WILL PLAY
As was reported by OnlyGators.com last week and confirmed by the Gators on Saturday, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin (ankle) has been cleared to play against the Jayhawks. Donovan said on Monday that the player has been “fine” and practicing the last few days without incident. Even though Wilbekin was initially “diagnosed” with a high-ankle sprain, Donovan admitted that the player could have practiced the next day but was held out as a precaution.
Freshman point guard Kasey Hill, who OnlyGators.com also reported would probably see some action as a reserve in his first game back from a high-ankle sprain, has also been cleared by play. Donovan went a bit more in-depth about Hill’s status.
“It’s really hard for me to say how much he will play, will not play. [Sunday] was the first day he’s done some things as it relates to contact. There is some tentativeness there. He’s not in great pain. I think he’s still probably recovering,” he said. “This is the first time he’ll be out there. We’ve been doing individual workouts and those kinds of things with him. For what his role would be in [Tuesday's] game would be too hard to say, but I would say he’ll be available to be put into the game. …
“There’s really no limitations on Kasey’s playing time from the doctors … but because he’s been out and he’s been out of practice so long – that’s been nearly three weeks right now – I just don’t know what I’m going to get for him. We’ll give him an opportunity. He’ll have another day of practice under his belt. Hopefully he’ll get back to feeling a little bit more comfortable. He feels pretty good right now, and as long as that continues, we’ll use him as we need him.”
COMING SOON: CHRIS WALKER
As OnlyGators.com, citing two sources, reported on Dec. 4, five-star incoming freshman forward Chris Walker has completed his academic requirements and is scheduled to join the Florida basketball program for the first time on Saturday. A third source confirmed Monday that Walker has been told to report to the team Saturday.
Donovan confirmed OnlyGators.com‘s report that Walker’s academic coursework is complete and he is simply awaiting clearance from both by the University of Florida and the NCAA Clearinghouse.
“He’s got to go through an admissions process like any other student here for the second semester,” he said. “Now it’s kind of our of our hands and we’re just waiting to hear back of what the ruling will be in terms of him being a qualifier, being able to start school.”
OnlyGators.com learned last week that Donovan has already been told Walker will be academically cleared and able to practice, hence Saturday being set as his reporting date. Donovan admitted as much, correctly noting that Walker cannot join the team until final exams end for the fall 2013 semester. The last exams will be distributed on Friday.
“I don’t believe that he can practice until after the last day of final exams once he’s cleared,” he said.
Whether Walker will be able to play for the Gators immediately is another story. Donovan has indicated to the player that he does not plan on throwing him into the lineup until he has been acclimated to the program, a process that could take through the start of the new year but may end in the last week of 2013.
There may also be an outstanding NCAA issue with Walker that has been known to be a potential problem for quite some time. The NCAA investigated the director of Walker’s former AAU team, the Florida Rams, last year, and found him to be in violation of a number of rules. It was discovered that Matt Ramker paid for Walker to unofficially visit Kansas, and the NCAA could hold up Walker’s clearance for a few games as a penalty.
Donovan refused to address whether there were any additional issues with Walker, a moot point in truth as the source that discussed the player’s status with OnlyGators.com noted that Walker is expected to be asked to acclimate himself to the team and watch from the bench for a few games anyway.
“I think Chris has fully cooperated and done everything that’s asked of him to this point in time,” Donovan said. “He’s done everything that he’s supposed to do, needed to do. I feel pretty confident with what he’s been able to do. …
“Any other issues that are out of our hands that he has to deal with, he will have to deal with. But I think the biggest thing for him is, if all that stuff does go through, he certainly has a lot to catch up on and a lot to make up having missed as much time as he’s missed here. But I would be excited if that did work out.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On the rumors that redshirt senior center Damontre Harris has been permanently dismissed from the program: “I don’t know where… I heard about it this morning… Damontre and I have not met, haven’t met in two weeks. Obviously he’s off the team as it relates to practicing and participating in games and those kinds of things, but Damontre and I have not met. I saw Damontre on Thanksgiving and I have not spoken to him through text messaging. But nothing has changed in terms of things that he needs to do. Right now his main focus is continuing to finish up school. … He and I have not spoken.”
» Donovan confirmed that junior guard Eli Carter (leg) will redshirt.
» On Kansas star freshman Andrew Wiggins: “You’ve always got to rely on help, your principles, being in the right position. For us defensively, it’s never a one-on-one situation where we’re just playing a guy one-on-one. … Obviously they’ve got a lot of very talented, gifted players that we’re going to need to be able to provide help, be in good position, and be ready to help on certain situations, certain screening actions. … He’s a very, very good player. He’ll be in the NBA next year. He’s extremely explosive and he’s athletic. I think he’s extremely smart. He lets the game come to himself. … He’s a really, really good basketball player. That’s the thing I respect about him. He seems to be a very good team guy. He seems to play within their system, and he seems to play well within the guys on their team.”
» On the psyche of UF and KU after both teams lost on buzzer beaters: “The year is so long. When you play so many games as we’re going to play, there’s going to be those games like Florida State – where you’re jumping for joy when you win a game – and then there’s obviously going to be some significant disappointments when you lose the way you did against UConn. … Guys are resilient. They’re excited about the opportunity to play again. It becomes much, much more difficult when you lose a game like that and it’s the last game of the year. … It should be a great game. Based on what happened in [each team’s] last game, both teams will come out and play very, very hard.”
» On the magnitude of Tuesday’s game: “It’s still pretty early in the season. Here it is December 10th and we’ve played already several teams that are going to be ranked in the top 10. So you get a good feeling of where you’re at as a team.”