Will Yeguete just wants to be like Mike. Not that Mike. Even when he gets the strength in his knee back – he’s somewhere about 90% right now – he will be far more explosive, but not that explosive. No, the Mike he’s talking about is Michael Frazier, Florida’s lethal weapon three from beyond the arc.
Frazier just lit up Jacksonville University Monday night, knocking down his first five three-pointers as part of a 17-point effort as the 13th-ranked Gators cruised to an 86-60 win over the Dolphins. Although the season is still very young, Frazier is knocking down threes at an impressive 51.5% clip, hitting 17-33 from beyond the arc.
That’s sizzling, but it pales to Will Yeguete, who has hit his last two three-balls and is 66.7% for the season. Yes, he’s only taken three long distance shots this year, but for a 6-8, 230-pounder who has made his reputation over the past three years doing the dirty work inside, it’s impressive.
And, it’s not like he hasn’t shot the three-ball before. Okay, so it was high school when the last time he hit two three-balls in a row, he hasn’t forgotten how and he’s comfortable launching a long ball under one condition.
“I’ve been working on it a lot,” said Yeguete, who will be in Florida’s starting lineup tonight when the Gators play host to Florida State (5-1) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center (7:30 p.m., ESPN2). “Coach D (Billy Donovan) encouraged me to keep playing and if you’re wide open, just stick the shot.”
Yeguete was wide open against Southern University, just left of the key area. He looked left, looked right and when it was obvious that no one was going to defend him, he launched and found the bottom of the net.
The next game against Middle Tennesee, Yeguete was standing in virtually the same spot in the first half. Middle Tennessee was packing a zone to keep the ball from getting inside to Patric Young while literally daring the Gators to fire up a three-pointer.
Again Yeguete looked left, then looked right. Nobody bothered to defend him so he fired away and got the exact same result.
While Yeguete admires the way Frazier steps into a shot and knocks down a three-ball with an almost effortless stroke, he knows that the best part of his game is getting inside where he has a nose for the ball. An instinctive rebounder, Yeguete is at his best tracking the ball down and getting off the floor quickly to stick it back in.
That’s the part of his game that is still lagging behind as he recovers his strength after microfracture surgery on his knee back in the summer. The knee is completely healed, but getting the strength back has been an ongoing process.
He’s still not there completely.
“I think I’m maybe close to 90%,” Yeguete said recently. “I keep striving every day to get stronger to get more lift. I think I’m getting there. Getting off the floor quickly and being more explosive. That’s the biggest thing for me right now.”
Yeguete is part of a four-man inside rotation for Donovan. Patric Young is currently the tallest Gator – 6-10 Damontre Harris is suspended from the team indefinitely and 6-10 Chris Walker awaits official clearance from the NCAA before he joins the team immediately after final exams in December – and that leaves Yeguete, 6-6 Casey Prather and 6-8 Dorian Finney-Smith as the only inside options.
As long as the Gators can keep the game on a quick, up and down pace, the size problem isn’t going to be such a big deal, and since the Gators have been short-handed since the beginning of the season, Donovan has had to rely on the versatility of his players to get the job done. Frazier, for example, has played four positions – shooting guard on the wing, small forward, point guard and in the press lineup he’s played the power forward position a few times. Finney-Smith is the most versatile of the Gators with the capability to play and defend all five positions on the floor.
As for Yeguete, he’s actually played all three front court positions. When Florida faced Middle Tennessee without a true point guard dressed out, it was point guard by committee and it seemed like everyone was going to get a turn at the point.
Asked if he would get a shot at the point, Yeguete grinned sheepishly and responded, “Nope!”
Yeguete is comfortable in his own skin and doesn’t feel there is an inner point guard dying to get out. He can’t say the same thing for Young, his best friend and roommate since they came to UF together as freshmen.
“I think Pat enjoys bringing the ball up,” Yeguete said.
Yeguete isn’t a reluctant ball handler, but he definitely tries to stay within himself, noting that he’s more than capable of grabbing a rebound or getting a steal and putting the ball on the deck to start a fast break
But even then he remembers the cardinal rule.
“You find if you turn it (the ball) over there will be consequences,” Yeguete said. If you want to try to do it, just don’t turn it over. If you turn it over, I don’t think you want to do it ever again.”
And when he takes off on the dribble, he remembers cardinal rule #2.
“Just don’t do anything crazy like do some in and out or behind the back,” he said. “Just stay steady and remember if you turn it over, Coach D won’t be happy about it.”
GAME NOTES: Prather leads the Gators in scoring at 19.2 per game. He has three games with more than 20 points, 28 against North Florida and 27 each against Arkansas-Little Rock and Jacksonville … Young has scored in double figures in each of the last four games. He’s averaging 10.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game … In the four games since he came off suspension, Finney-Smith is averaging 13.3 points and a team-high 8.3 rebounds. Finney-Smith had 14 points and 11 rebounds against Jacksonville … Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin and Florida State’s Okaro White were all AAU teammates with Nike Team Florida. Florida sophomore DeVon Walker is also from that program. Walker will probably be a game day decision whether he plays or not. The 6-6 combo guard suffered a mid-foot sprain against Jacksonville.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
FLORIDA STATE (5-1): Okaro White (6-9, 204, SR); Robert Gilchrist (6-9, 220, SR); Boris Bojanovsky (7-3, 240, SO); Devon Bookert (6-3, 185, SO); Montay Brandon (6-7, 216, SO)
FLORIDA (5-1): Will Yeguete (6-8, 230, SR); Casey Prather (6-6, 212, SR); Patric Young (6-9, 240, SR); Scottie Wilbekin (6-2, 176, SR); Michael Frazier (6-4, 199, SO)