Patric Young only looks like he’s indestructible. At 6-9 and still very imposing at 242 pounds – 18 less than his playing weight last year – Young does understand about the pain of injury. After all, he has been injured before. Once.
“In middle school I had a bad bruise in my thigh from playing outside football,” the two-time SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and a member of last year’s All-SEC defensive team said Thursday. “That’s probably the worst injury I ever had.”
In three previous seasons at Florida, Young has only missed one practice and that was his sophomore year when he battled through a mild case of tendonitis in his knee. Otherwise he has been injury free.
“I’ve just been blessed,” Young said. “I’ve never broken a bone in my life … never sprained an ankle. Ever. Fortunately.”
Young, sophomore forward Devon Walker and freshman point guard Kasey Hill have been the constants at Florida basketball practices in the first two weeks of the season. Everybody else has missed at least one full practice with an injury or illness.
As a senior and a team leader, Young understands that not everyone has been as fortunate when it comes to staying healthy, so he has done his best to be an encourager.
“It’s tough for me because I haven’t had an injury that kept me out for such a long time so I try to put myself in their shoes and try to encourage those guys to keep along with the journey and stay strong,” Young said. “It’s a process that even though you’re not getting better on the court, there are areas that you can get better in such as the weight room, which is essential to staying away from and preventing injuries.”
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The lack of healthy bodies has been a hindrance through the first couple of weeks of practice as the Gators gear up for their exhibition game with Florida Southern next Friday and their season opener with North Florida on November 8. Florida coach Billy Donovan will have a better idea of where the Gators are Saturday afternoon when they go against Georgia Tech in a closed to the public/closed to the media scrimmage in Valdosta.
Backup point guard Dillon Graham will be out (sprained ankle) which means 6-8 Dorian Finney-Smith, a legitimate five-position guy will get a few minutes taking charge of the team when Hill has to have a breather. That is, if Finney-Smith is healthy enough to go. Finney-Smith strained a tendon in his ankle at Wednesday’s practice and as of Thursday, his status for Saturday was unclear.
If he can go, however, Finney-Smith will back up Hill.
He probably would be [our backup point guard] with Dillon being out,” Donovan said. “That’s probably going to be a bit of a challenge.”
Graham is just one more player who has to get healthy for Donovan to field a functional team. With Scottie Wilbekin out until December, Graham will have to eat up some of the minutes when Hill needs a break or has any kind of foul trouble.
“With Dillon being out about a week we haven’t been able to get him a lot of reps at the point guard spot,” Donovan lamented. “I don’t think it’s anything that is going to keep him out weeks, but I think that maybe after this weekend we can get him back on Monday. That is my hope.”
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Donovan is eager to see Eli Carter in action against Georgia Tech. Although Carter won’t see the floor for long stretches, he will be able to give some minutes. Carter broke his leg while playing at Rutgers back in February. The healing and rehab process is done now so it’s just a matter of getting back into playing shape. Carter was actually helped by a bout with the flu a couple of weeks ago as he is now about 8-10 pounds lighter even though he has a little bit more weight to lose.
“He’s fully healed so he’s not in harm’s way of reinjuring himself,” Donovan said. “He’s fully healed but he needs to get more strength in his foot. He needs to get more strength in his calf. He needs to get more explosive. He needs to lose a little bit more weight.”
Donovan said what Carter is going through now is mostly mental but there is some soreness from the extended time away from the game. Carter has also had to battle through some shin splits that have limited him in practice.
But even with the limitations, Donovan sees things about Carter that give hope that the 6-2 junior transfer who averaged 14.9 points per game last year at Rutgers will be able to be a strong contributor this season.
“He has a really good feel how to play, really understands the game,” Donovan said. “He just has an awareness and knows how to play. You can tell he’s a veteran guy. Even being somewhat hobbled he can be productive out there just because he understands how to play and he understands extra passing, ball movement, he understands spacing, how to come off screens and he knows how to use screens. Those kind of things he’s already got down. The biggest thing for us is trying to get him moving and cutting and sprinting in a way where he’s kind of somewhat back to where he was.”
Against Georgia Tech, Donovan expects plans to use Carter in short bursts of 3-4 possessions at a time.
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Senior Will Yeguete, Florida’s most versatile front court defender, is unlikely to log any minutes in the scrimmage. Yeguete is making progress coming back from micro-fracture surgery on his knee but Donovan isn’t sure he is ready to play in a game situation.
“I don’t think Will will play,” Donovan said. “I don’t think he feels he is ready for that yet. My guess is that he will not play.”