Still smarting from their surprise 80-69 drubbing at the hands of Arkansas on Tuesday, the No. 2 Florida Gators’s basketball team received a second dose of sobering news on junior forward Will Yeguete’s knee injury on Thursday.
“He’s going to need surgery,” said UF coach Billy Donovan. “Best-case scenario would he’ll probably be out for the remainder of at least the regular season and probably re-evaluate it then.
Yeguete, a 6-foot-7 France native, had “significant swelling” in the knee over the last few weeks. There’s chips and cartilage “floating” around, which the team knew beforehand but allowed him to play as long as the pain didn’t intensify. Once that happened, surgery was imminent.
“He’ll probably do that here at the end of the week,” Donivan said. “My guess right now would be anywhere from four to six weeks before he would be able to get back.”
Yeguete has been a key cog in the Gators’ rotation, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Although he has started a few games, he often was the first player off of the bench such as when he came in quickly against Arkansas when Patric Young had foul trouble.
This is the second consecutive year an injury has sidelined Yeguete, but while last year’s team fared well without the versatile forward, Donovan believes replacing Yeguete will be much more difficult this time around.
“It’s a little bit of a different situation than it was last year for our team,” Donovan said. “Last year’s team had an enormous amount of depth in the backcourt and we also had enough depth in the frontcourt to absorb Will’s injury last year.
Young, Erik Murphy, Casey Prather and Cody Larson, who no longer is with the team, were able to absorb the inside minutes. The depth is why Donovan said the injury “wasn’t as impactful” as it is now.
Another concern is junior forward Casey Prather, who still is recovering from a high-ankle sprain. Prather is pain-free, but the Gators’ coach believes he still hasn’t returned to his pre-injury form.
The lone silver lining is the Gators have been accustom to player absences this season and been able to endure.
However, Donovan did say there would be changes on the horizon.
“We’re going to have to move around some different pieces here,” Donovan said. “We’re going to have to look at playing four guards, we’re going to have to look at moving [Michael] Frazier II at the power forward spot some, we’re going to have to look at different lineups with [DeVon] Walker on the floor as well.”
Walker’s playing time has been scarce. While Donovan said he’s not sure if the 6-foot 6 true freshman is ready for what awaits, Donovan does believe Walker’s competitive spirit will help him.
“I don’t know if he’s ready, we don’t have a whole lot of choices right now,” Donovan said. “But I would say this about DeVon Walker, which I like, is he’s highly competitive; he’s a tough kid. I think he’ll step in there and give us everything he has. That’s a comforting part.
“Is he going to be in the right spot all the time? Probably not. Is he going to make some mistakes? Absolutely … I do have confidence in his competiveness … we’ll see what he does when he gets out there.”
Not High On Hogs
Rosario called Yeguete a “Dennis Rodman type” and the “hustle guy” of the Florida team, especially on defense. Rosario believes the Gators played “loose” against Arkansas, citing an inability to keep players out of the paint and defend the three-point line.
After his team’s performance against Arkansas, Donovan said the Gators are “a really bad defensive team. He didn’t see any red flags indicating a potentially poor performance during practices.
Florida can regroup Saturday when it hosts Mississippi State, a team UF defeated by 35 points two weeks ago. The Gators will look to apply lessons learned from the Arkansas loss.
“It’s a reality check,” Rosario said. “Going into every game we have to be perfect. That’s one thing you want to be. Especially being the No. 2 team in the country, a lot of teams basically looking at you as a target.