Florida was shallow in the frontcourt to begin the season, but things recently got even worse when backup center Cody Larson came down with strep throat.
Billy Donovan said the redshirt freshman is doubtful for Thursday’s game against Florida State, as is junior guard Mike Rosario (strained back). Both players missed Monday’s win against Mississippi Valley State.
“Cody’s doing better. We’ll have to see what he does in practice,” Donovan said. “He’s lost a lot of weight. He’s going to be drained. I imagine conditioning is going to be a problem, stamina is going to be a problem.”
The timing for Larson’s return to the court couldn’t be better for his physical recovery, as the Gators were going to avoid contact Tuesday after a string of tough practices and two games in the past four days.
Donovan promised his team if walk-on guard Jacob Kurtz hit two free throws in Monday’s game that it would have off practice Tuesday, and Kurtz came through. So Florida took the day to work on its mental approach to Florida State.
Once the team returns to the floor, Donovan will get a chance to see if Larson can play against the Seminoles.
“Whether or not he can really provide anything for us, I think I’ll have a better feel tomorrow after practice,” he said.
Rosario did not practice Tuesday after some issues in his lower back flared up recently. The junior had been dealing with back problems in the preseason but was not forced to miss much time on the floor.
Donovan won’t hurry his return, though the Gators would certainly like to have his scoring threat off the bench.
“He’s probably another guy if he can’t do anything tomorrow at practice then I’m probably not going to play him,” the Florida coach said. “He’d have to at least show me some things that he can at least get back.”
Conditioning will be one of the biggest issues for both players after recovering from their ailments. Donovan typically brings players back slowly to account for that.
“I think when all the sudden you miss as much time as [Mike has] missed or Cody’s missed you start throwing those guys in games and they’ve got no reps, they’ve got no practice under their belt, I think it’s hard to expect a lot of productivity from those guys,” he said.
If both players miss the Florida State game, it could limit what Florida is able to do defensively. The Gators pressed some against the Delta Devils on Monday night, but Kenny Boynton and Will Yeguete each picked up four fouls.
Without Rosario and Larson to spell the Florida starters, the Gators will have their hands full against a physical Seminoles team.
“No question there’s going to be some times we’re pressing in the game,” Donovan said. “I think certainly their size, their athleticism, doing some things to not just allow them to overwhelm us up front will be an important part of the game.”
While Donovan hopes to throw Florida State off balance by pressing a little, how much he is able to do that will depend on how his depth-depleted lineup is able to handle the Seminoles.
“I think it all depends on what’s going on in the game,” he said. “I think foul trouble dictates that. I think sometimes with the way the game’s going dictates a lot of that.”
- Donovan said there was an out for Florida State in the contract between the schools that allowed the Seminoles to avoid playing the basketball game on the same weekend as the football game. He prefers it to be played on the same weekend, and he said the game in Gainesville in two years will be.
- Florida State will be without backup forward Terrance Shannon against Florida. The junior, who was averaging 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.
- Donovan said his backcourt still needs to do a better job of getting the ball into Patric Young in the post. He said several times his guards have not been able to recognize when he has good position in the paint.
- Donovan said that he views the Florida State game as a good measuring stick for his program. The Seminoles are one of the last tough remaining games on Florida’s non-conference schedule.
“The Gold” is a new Gator Country feature highlighting the most relevant and newsworthy tidbits from press conferences and interviews with Florida coaches and players. We’ll get you the latest team news as fast as possible in an easy-to-read format!