Florida has missed Forward Will Yeguete for the past six games, plus the all but one minute of the seventh game. In that span, Florida has their only three losses in conference, and all on the road. Freshman sharp shooter Michael Frazier also missed the last game, a close loss on the road at Tennessee because of a concussion suffered at home the weekend before in the Arkansas contest. Junior forward Casey Prather missed the last several minutes of that close Tennessee game because of a cut that required stitches.
To say the least a short roster, with two big men already sitting out the season due to transfer, has been quite limited since the Gators lost their first SEC contest.
Billy and Donovan and crew got good news on Wednesday and Donovan talked about it on Thursday.
“All those guys are cleared to play,” he said of Yeguete, Frazier, and Prather. “Doctors have cleared everybody.”
“Physicians and trainers looked at Casey after the Tennessee game. There was not a concussion. I was told that there may or may not be. But at the time after the game they had to look at him so I guess they put him through the baseline tests and everything else and he did not have a concussion.”
“Frazier is cleared to go back to physical contact and activity after sitting out after the Arkansas game.”
For Yeguete, who is a force off the bench and a guy that does all the little things on the court to make his team better, Donovan believes it will take him some time to really get back to being himself.
“Yeguete is cleared to play, but again he has not done anything physically at all – I shouldn’t say physically,” Donovan said. “He hasn’t done anything as it relates to practice and contact. So today will be the first day he actually gets into some contact and gets into playing. I have no idea right now. My expectation on him going into the game is not very high just because I haven’t seen him play. Obviously he’s got two days to practice but I would be hard-pressed to believe he’s going to be the same player before he was when he went down with his injury. It’ll probably take him some time to get back but at least he can start working to get back in shape and get back in rhythm and timing and those kinds of things.”
Donovan wants the other guys that have been there to continue to play as if these three aren’t going to be available. At least, be prepared to play that way.
“I’m more concerned about it than anything else, to be honest with you,” he said about the positive of getting them back. “I went through a situation like this with Matt Walsh. When Matt Walsh had a high ankle sprain he missed about four or five games and when he came back it was almost like everybody wanted to kind of drift back into the roles they were at before he got hurt and expecting him to be the same player he was before. I think that’s a mistake.
“Our guys need to understand that although some of these guys are coming back, Frazier’s been out of practice for quite a bit of time. Prather hasn’t missed any practice. He just missed the last three minutes of the Tennessee game. And Yeguete’s been out for three weeks. So our guys that have been through the grind of most of the last month or so, they can’t rest and relax. They’ve got to understand that they’ve got to step up and they’ve got to play and they cannot take the approach of, ‘Well, we’re a little bit deeper. We have more guys available.’ Because I just don’t know if Frazier and/or Yeguete are going to be really able to be able to really provide some significant minutes for us.”
Even though he has been cleared to practice, there may be points where the medical staff will want to ensure that he isn’t jeopardizing anything.
“Well, the trainer really continues their practice time,” Donovan said of the watchful eyes of the medical team. “When we’re in there with our guys that have basically been healthy, we’re not going to adjust the practice for Will. There’ll be things that he will put him in and take him out on. Not because he hasn’t been cleared, but more like what you’re talking about. He’s probably winded. He’s probably tired, needs to catch his breath. There’s some practices he needs to go in more than others.
“He still had knee surgery, you know, so there is an element of him getting back. So really from guys that have injuries like this, the trainer controls their practice time and I’m kind of practicing with the hand that I’m dealt with. I would imagine that he would be – he’s cleared to do everything physically, but the trainer will step in and say, ‘OK, he needs to come out for this part. We need to rest him. We need to put him back in for this.’ And they kind of make those decisions as practice is going on.”
Knowing that they don’t want to rush anything, especially with Yeguete and his injury, Donovan sees the light at the end of the tunnel and that is getting him back to his old self by the time the post season rolls around.
"Hopefully his knee can hold up and there's not going to be swelling,” Donovan said. “But, yes, knowing that he's going to be available is definitely a positive because there is a chance he could get back to being fully healthy and could get back to playing at the level he was at with us having three games in the regular season, then the SEC Tournament and postseason, those are good things to help him get back."
Getting five minutes a game from Yeguete, plus the full compliment that Frazier and Prather can bring should be more than most teams can handle that are left on the regular season schedule.