For the last month, Mike White has had to answer the same question every time he speaks to the media. “Any updates on the big guys?”
The answers were trending in the right direction for a while as John Egbunu and Isaiah Stokes both started participating in non-contact drills, but now they seem to be at a standstill.
They are still listed as day-to-day and participating in limited non-contact action while the final days for their originally expected late-January return slip away.
Kevarrius Hayes and Keith Stone have continued to do their best inside, and Gorjok Gak and Dontay Bassett are finally starting to play some good minutes, but the Gators are still in desperate need of someone with a stronger presence and more experience, like Egbunu.
“I try not to worry about it,” White said. “I don’t want to worry about things I can’t control. Obviously, I wish he was out there. I wish he was out there four months ago. I know he does, too. His teammates do.”
It’s been nearly a year since Egbunu last took the court in a game. As each game of his senior year passes, it has to be tough for him to watch his team struggle at the things he is best at, and not be able to do anything about it.
While he continues to go through the rehab process and work his way back to game strength, he hasn’t let his extended timetable keep him from being a good teammate.
“I still say he’s very supportive and talkative,” Hayes said. “He tries to keep us going. He doesn’t like to share his personal grievances, but I’m pretty sure it’s hard on him. As great as a guy he is, I know he loves to play, and right now, not being able to is going to be one of the hardest things to deal with.”
As for Stokes, he is dealing with a very similar situation. But instead of working against time remaining in his college career, he is working against a redshirt.
With each game that passes, the likelihood of a redshirt season becomes higher and higher for him, and right now, it’s looking like that will be the case.
At 6’8, 270, he would be a huge presence for Florida, but that means nothing if he runs out of gas after a couple times up and down the court. He is just not physically ready at this point to make a difference in a game.
“I think if his weight got down and he got into great shape here over the next 2-4 weeks and he really wanted to come off a redshirt and we felt like he could help this team from a conditioning standpoint, there would be a decision, but right now, he’s just way out of shape,” White said. “Obviously, a big factor is he hasn’t been able to really get after it and exert himself. Hopefully there’s a decision to be made, but right now there’s not.”
With that, the Gators will travel to play Yante Maten and the Georgia Bulldogs on Tuesday night with a still-depleted front court.
Florida could really use one or both of those guys as it enters the final stretch of SEC play, but Mike White and his training staff aren’t going to put them at risk by rushing a return.