Yeguete's going to take it in stride

Yeguete

He's missed six full games plus all but one minute of a seventh and he is very happy to get back on the court. Still, Florida junior forward Will Yeguete knows he can't rush things. He has to take playing time as it comes and feels comfortable and the worst thing he can do is rush back to the court and have a setback because of it.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan is also concerned and is trying to prepare his team to allow Yeguete to come back at a pace that is best for him and inevitably for the entire team as the season progresses.

"I know people look at the fact that's he's back and he's cleared to play.," Donovan said Thursday to a host of Florida media. "I've got a totally different perspective myself, just because, he has not played and he's coming off of knee surgery.

"Obviously, if he can back to the form he was in, that's a great thing. I think sometimes you get your expectations way up and you put the kid in a bad situation. He needs to slowly get himself back. Hopefully he can get to that level, but he hasn't shown that yet. If we put all our eggs in one basket, that our team has all these guys back that are cleared to play and we're right back to where we started when we had a healthy roster, I think that's a mistake."

For Yeguete, who practiced for the first time on Thursday, it is just one day at a time and it is made easier by the return of freshman Michael Frazier and junior Casey Prather from their own injuries.

"I'm not even looking to Saturday yet, I'm just looking forward to today and see how I feel on the court," he said of the weekend match up at home against Alabama. "I'm glad to have Frazier and Prather back, so I've just got to make sure I'm ready for Saturday whether I play or not.

Yeguete is happy about a return that may be a little bit earlier than expected and has him a little surprised at that.

"A little bit," he said about being surprised. "I mean it's a process. (The trainer) was telling me that he's going to do what's best for me, and if I feel good we'll keep going and if I don't feel good I've just got to let him know and we'll slow down. So far so good, so I just keep going and add more stuff every day. "I feel like a kid right now. I'm really excited to get back out there. I feel like it's been a minute since I played with those guys and just run the court and compete. But at the same time, I'm not going to be like 100 percent and able to go up and down for like 30 minutes like a regular practice. It's going to take time and it's gonna be a process. I think (the trainer) and the coaches know that, and I'm just ready to go whenever they want me to." The recuperation process has gone very well so far and getting back to practice has him a little nervous.

"No swelling, it hasn't swelled after any exercise," Yeguete said. "I'm just trying to push through fatigue if I get tired and that's about it.

"A little bit (nervous) because it's been a minute, but I'm not going to just practice the whole time. I don't think I'm going to do that, probably just some segments and see how I feel. I'm nervous, but I'm excited as well.

The brace he has to wear is not something he would recommend and he is finding it a bit cumbersome, although not hindering his ability to play like he thinks he can.

"I was never used to growing up wearing a knee brace and playing with it," he said. "I feel like I'm not free. Like my knee is still strapped up in something. But if that's what I have to do and it's just the safest thing to do, I'm just going to have to play with it and get used to it. It was a little hard in the beginning but now I'm probably starting to get used to it.

"I mean so far, nothing (is effected). I did some different slides yesterday and I felt pretty good. So I'm looking forward to today and what I'm going to do on the court and see how I feel tomorrow."

Yeguete is glad to be back in a position to help his team on the court. The helplessness of having to stay on the bench while his teammates lost the only three games of the conference season was something hard to endure.

"I mean, it wasn't easy because watching them play and not being able to be out there, especially because I was out last year, so it wasn't easy," he said. "But they helped me out, and I just tried to stay positive.

"I think I would have been able to help if I was in the game. (Tennessee and Missouri) were close games and two good teams and we didn't do a very good job of rebounding against them. I feel like it was a team effort. If I would have been playing, I would have added to the team effort and hopefully I can get back out there and help us rebounding against Alabama this weekend."

But still, there is no rushing it.

"I'm not putting pressure on myself," he said. "I'm just going to go out there and just play. I'm not expecting to play like 30 minutes in the first game. I know they know that it's going to process. If I only get five or 10 minutes, I'm going to be happy with it and hopefully get better. Hopefully by March, I'll be 100 percent."

The Gators host Alabama at noon on Saturday and the game will be carried live on ESPN.

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