“Oh — I was afraid”.
It seems incongruous — such a meek admission muttered a burly, mo-hawk-clad, tenacious and frenetic power forward.
Incongruous perhaps, but entirely understandable.
Following his first appearance since knee surgery, Coach Donovan asked Will Yeguete how he felt.
“After the game he said he was petrified. He was so scared. Not scared of his knee, but just that he hadn’t played in a while,” Donovan told IMG Sports Network following Yeguete’s first action in nearly a month.
Since his return outing versus Alabama, Yeguete has notched his second appearance — logging twelve minutes in a title-clinching victory over Vanderbilt.
And the fear?
“I wasn’t afraid. It just took me awhile to get it going,” Yeguete said.
And he is ‘getting it going’.
Returning weeks earlier than initially anticipated and defying some prognostications that ended his season entirely, Yeguete is happy to be in position to shake off the rust just in time for the postseason.
“I am thankful for that. You know it’s not going to be easy. I just have to keep practicing—and practice has been better,” Yeguete said. “And I played more minutes yesterday than I did before that, so I just have to keep going”.
There’s that word again — “going”.
It is something Florida fans and coaches have come to expect from the perpetually moving power forward, and something that has been a trademark of his hustle-style play.
“We just need him to really play with great energy and great spurts,” Donovan said. “We need out of him more than anything is just his defense, his energy, his motor, his keeping alive loose basketballs”.
Up to this point, Yeguete has been relegated to the fore mentioned ‘spurts’, as his game conditioning is still in recovery mode following the absence.
“It’s not easy to just get back in the game and, you know, go up and down. You know, it’s not like it used to be,” Yeguete conceded. “But, you know, it’s a process and it’s only my second game since I came back. So I’m just going to be patient and just keep, you know, playing and practicing every day and get better”.
Gator fans do know— and so too will the opposition.
As Yeguete works through conditioning, his coach expects other aspects to improve, including a timing that Donovan feels is not yet back “from an offensive perspective”.
“Through individual instruction and practice time, that will start to come back,” Donovan said. “But we really need the things that have made Will Yeguete who he is as a player”.
While perhaps rusty, Yeguete’s surgery may transform the ‘player he is’ into one even better than the player ‘he was’. Once saddled by the pain, swelling and immobility, he is now without those limitations.
“I think his knee actually feels better. He feels like he is getting stronger and stronger every day he is out there playing, which is encouraging,” Donovan said.
Though strengthening and showing no negative effects from the surgery, Yeguete’s knee has been, and will continue to be, supported by a brace. It is something to which the energetic forward will have to become more accustomed.
“I’ve been getting used to it— practicing and just going up and down, and just trying not to worry about it and not to think about it,” Yeguete said.
A healthy Yeguete, however, is something opponents will have to worry about, think about — and yup, be afraid of.
Maybe even petrified.