The Florida Gators basketball team might be trotting onto the court Wednesday night covered in Band-Aids.
They’re a beat up team right now, with a litany of injuries sustained over the past few games, but resilient through it all.
Despite their toughness though, head coach Mike White and his medical staff will still have a close eye on most of their bench as the Gators take on SEC foe the Arkansas Razorbacks.
“We’re actually a little banged up,” understated White.
“With [Alex Murphy] Murph being out and Schuyler [Rimmer] just getting back into a rhythm. Kevarrius Hayes had an injury the other night. We’ll find out more today as far as what strength he is at. Kasey Hill broke his nose the other day, so we’re banged up. But mentally, I think we’re in a pretty good place coming off our biggest win.”
That biggest win was over the No. 9 West Virginia Mountaineers in an 88-71 shellacking of the country’s best press.
It came at a price physically though, as White mentioned, leaving several players with blood stains and bruises.
Kasey Hill received a broken nose, courtesy of a flying WVU elbow. He left for the locker room during the first half but did return to finish the game. He will play versus Arkansas, albeit with some possible new hardware.
“I told him it probably helps his looks a little bit,” joked White on Monday.
“I don’t know if he’ll have a face guard or not [against Arkansas], but I thought he showed incredible physical toughness. No one in the stands even knew he had a broken nose, but to go out and continue to play and make the decisions he made and the way he battled, I was proud of him after the game, for sure.”
Kevarrius Hayes also took a shot on Saturday night. He came back in to play after being evaluated in the locker room but that was more grit than anything as he had spent a good two minutes on the court unable to sit up with a shoulder/upper arm injury. His status for Wednesday is still unknown.
White updated his standing saying, “Kevarrius Hayes had an injury the other night. We’ll find out more [Monday] as far as what strength he is at.”
There are still some pre-existing injuries on the bench that are taking a bit longer to evaluate. One of them is Alex Murphy who was out with a foot injury, only to return versus Tennessee on January 6 and re-aggravate the damage.
He’s making up for it with encouragement from the bench.
“He brings a ton of positive,” said White.
“Alex is a mature kid. He’s a great teammate, and that’s one of the biggest qualities he brings. He’s a great player. He’s a talented kid. He’s smart. He loves the game. He may end up being a coach. More than anything he cares about his teammates. He brings positive energy every day to practice, to games, to the film room, to the weight room. So he’s just doing whatever he can to help these guys. He knows he’s a part of it whether he’s getting minutes or not. He’s doing whatever he can while injured.”
In Murphy’s absence, transfer Schuyler Rimmer has seen increased minutes at the forward spot; this while coming back from a back injury of his own. White has continually praised Rimmer’s efforts on defense, including his team leading 6 rebounds on Saturday versus WVU, and adds “Schuyler continues to make a case for more minutes.”
Perhaps the most significant injury case to watch over the next couple of days is that of forward Justin Leon.
The JUCO transfer was a breakout star for the Gators versus Ben Simmons and LSU and had been steadily consistent since them. White described Leon as the guy who you knew what you’d get from him each night. Unfortunately for the Florida Gators basketball team they weren’t able to have Leon on Saturday and for the second half of the one-point loss to Vanderbilt on January 26. It was during that heartbreaker against the Commodores that Leon took a shot to the head and left the game with a possible concussion. He has been held out since under concussion protocol. As for his status for Wednesday’s game against the Hogs, White said, “I’m not sure. I don’t think it’s been determined yet. He’ll be more active [Monday]. Duke will assess at that point.”
From the time of that LSU game until his injury, Leon had been averaging 10.4 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game.
For now White will take his banged up but tough Gators into the next matchup, ready to do battle once again.
“But it’s on to the next one,” said White.
“Arkansas is a really dangerous team that is really playing well as of late. They’re playing some really good teams very close and coming off some really good wins, as well.”
The Florida Gators basketball team will face Arkansas on Wednesday February 3 in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Tip off is set for 7pm on SEC Network, and as always, follow along with GatorCountry.com for full updates and coverage.