Every time Will Yeguete falls to the floor there are gasps from folks in the O’Connell center crowd. It’s not from excitement, but out of worry. Worry because they care about the 6-8 senior from Bordeaux, France. They’ve seen him concussed, they’ve seen him recover only to have his foot broken two days after his return to the floor. They’ve seen knee problems ail him throughout his Florida career and watched the human emotions upon a sooner-than-expected 2013 return.
“After the game he said he was petrified. He was so scared. Not scared of his knee, but just that he hadn’t played in a while,” Florida head coach Billy Donovan told IMG Sports Network following Yeguete’s March 2013 performance against Alabama after an arthroscopic knee surgery.
Donovan said Friday, there was a time when he didn’t think Yeguete would ever be back. After two surgeries at the end of his junior year, perhaps it would be too much for him to fully recover from. The choice was up to Yeguete whether or not to battle back to return to 100%. Donovan offered an anecdote about Yeguete’s mental resolve to get over injury from the immediate aftermath of his broken foot in his sophomore year.
“Our trainer had taken him back in the tunnel in the O’Dome and I had finished media and meeting with our team and I went out there to meet with him and he was sitting in the car,” Donovan said. “He was just sitting there. And he said ‘Coach, I don’t want to get surgery, I want to play.’ And I’m like ‘Will, you can’t play.’ And he says ‘I’m not doing surgery I just want to rest for a week and try to go back on the court and play.’”
You’ve also seen Yeguete’s trademark Mohawk (how could you miss it?) rising like a peak a few inches off of his head. The hair was immortalized when the school handed out 1,000 orange Mohawks to student fans, a tribute the then junior forward who described his hair-do as aggressive.
The hair isn’t the only thing aggressive about Yeguete who brings a unique defensive tenacity to a UF unit eighth nationally in that category of Ken Pomeroy’s advanced statistical rankings through 30 games. His length and acumen for rebounding make him a solid player on UF’s front line.
As ferocious as he is on the court, his softer side shines through, off of it. A notorious friendship with center Patric Young gave one of the best photo opps of the season.
— Gator M-Basketball (@GatorZoneMBK) February 26, 2014
But it was a bond that started under very peculiar circumstances, in a high school basketball game in which they were opponents.
“That’s when I kind of got to know him, because he wouldn’t stop talking to me during the game,” Yeguete said. “Telling me that I should commit to Florida and everything. I was like this guy is just insane, we’re playing a game right now in the Final Four and he’s talking about me going to Florida.”
Should Florida continue to play well, Yeguete may get another chance in a different Final Four situation with Young, on the same team this time of course.