It’s been an odd season for the Florida Gators basketball team to say the least.
If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. The Gators just can’t seem to get healthy.
Florida has dealt with a little bit of everything this season, from concussions to knee injuries to illnesses, and that’s just to name a few.
“I’m surprised we’ve been this banged up,” said head coach Mike White. “I’m surprised at our lack of depth. We’ve had every illness in the book as well.”
There are very few ways to explain the Gators’ lack of luck in the health department other than a curse, but it looks like they may finally be turning the corner.
Chris Chiozza is over his strep throat and feeling great.
Deaundrae Ballard is back from his illness and is expected to play as long as he continues to feel better.
Egor Koulechov will likely play with plantar fasciitis in his foot for the remainder of the season, but he is toughing it out.
Gorjok Gak suffered a concussion in the first half at Ole Miss. He is doubtful to play on Wednesday, but not completely out of the question.
Chase Johnson is day-to-day and cleared for non-contact.
And finally, for the ones many have been waiting on all season, Isaiah Stokes and John Egbunu are both back to non-contact and have participated in what they could in this week’s practices.
With so many guys able to go in practice and getting closer to health, White said it felt like the team doubled in size. Both in number and physically.
“He looked great, he looked enormous,” White said of Egbunu. “He’s got to get back in game shape. Same with Isaiah Stokes. It looks like we just signed two defensive ends. They’re both just big guys and John showed a little explosion, again non-contact, but he darn near tore the rim down a couple times yesterday and he was excited about it.”
Not only did it lift the spirits of Egbunu to get back on the floor after so many months of rehab, it rejuvenated the entire team. A team that needed a pick-me-up after suffering its first SEC loss on Saturday.
“We have not seen him out there in a long time,” Chiozza said. “He came out there and he was ready to practice and everybody was just happy. All the people out there, we all just starting clapping for him. He went through the stretch and everything, did a couple drills. He didn’t do too much, but it was good just seeing him out on the court again. When you get somebody back like him it’s just a huge boost to the team.”
Unfortunately, the timeline for Egbunu and Stokes hasn’t changed. They are still looking at the ever so ambiguous “late-January” return.
Some could consider now to technically be late-January, but White made it clear following the Ole Miss game that they would not be available this week.
While it provides some relief to know those guys are on their final stretch of recovery, there is still nothing they can do to make an impact right now.
That means the Gators will still have to face Arkansas, a team known for its outstanding use of depth, without much depth (especially inside) to combat it.
“We would like to be deeper, of course,” White said. “Hopefully, we can get to that point with this team. Coach [Mike] Anderson, at all of his stops, has been known for that. Utilizing all their guys, known for being deep and staying fresh. They’re going to play really hard. Their bench is going to play really hard. We’ve got to do our best to match that intensity and we’ve got to do our best to watch guys’ minutes.”