Name the sport, name the team, pick a season past or present and at some point adversity creeps into the equation. The question is never will there be adversity? It’s always a matter of when it will happen and how will the team deal with it? For Billy Donovan, he has to be hoping that his eighth-ranked Gators are getting all their adversity out of the way long before the Southeastern Conference portion of the schedule begins in January.
Florida plays an exhibition game against Florida Southern in two weeks (November 1). One week later, the games begin for real when the Gators host North Florida in the season opener. Four days after that (November 12), the Gators travel to Madison to face a Wisconsin team that consistently makes the NCAA Tournament field and is being projected to finish in the top four in the always strong Big Ten. Just how many healthy players Donovan will have for those first three games is anyone’s guess right now.
It’s been a struggle to find enough healthy bodies to practice and full court scrimmages have been totally out of the question in the first week of practice due to injuries and sickness. Gator Country has confirmed that the injury bug struck again on Thursday when Dillon Graham rolled an ankle during practice. The injury isn’t serious for the 6-4 sophomore guard from Orlando, but it will keep him out of practice for approximately seven days.
Graham joins Will Yeguete (rehabbing a knee) and Eli Carter (rehabbing a broken leg) on the sideline. Donovan hopes to have Yeguete cleared for full contact practice before the exhibition game but it might be two or three weeks after that before he’s really up to full speed. Carter broke his leg back in February when he was Rutgers’ leading scorer (14.9 per game) and he’s still not cleared for full contact practice.
Additionally, Damontre Harris is battling some hamstring problems that kept him out of practice earlier in the week, Michael Frazier has been tested for mononucleosis and walkon Billy Donovan III is practicing and playing through a torn labrum. When you add the fact that Scottie Wilbekin won’t be available until the first of December as he finishes serving out his suspension from the team and Chris Walker won’t be with the team until after the semester break because of academic eligibility issues and it’s going to be a problem for Donovan to get an accurate gauge of how far his team has progressed for a few more weeks.
Once he gets everyone healthy and eligible, Donovan will have one of his deepest and most talented rosters he’s had in his 18 years as Florida’s head coach. Once everyone is ready to go, the Gators will be a legitimate threat to make the Final Four, but until Donovan can get all the moving parts on the floor to practice at the same time, it’s going to be dicey. The best he can hope for is that the Gators will not only face the bulk of their adversity now and that by the time March arrives he will have a smooth operating, well-oiled machine ready to go deep into the NCAA Tournament.