UF's Yeguete out 4 to 6 weeks
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 2:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 2:26 p.m.
Florida climbed to No. 2 in both major polls this week despite dealing with a myriad of injuries during the course of the season.
But the Gators suffered their toughest blow on the injury front this season on Thursday when they announced that junior forward Will Yeguete will undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in his knee.
Florida coach Billy Donovan said in a “best-case scenario” the 6-foot-7, 240-pound Yeguete will be re-evaluated in four to six weeks with hopes that he could return for the postseason. Until then, Florida will have to make do without its best post defender.
“Anytime you lose a player on your team, it always hurts,” Donovan said. “This is not something we are unaccustomed to dealing with this year.”
The injury list for Florida this season has included Yeguete (knee), junior forward Casey Prather (sprained ankle, concussion), Erik Murphy (broken rib) and Scottie Wilbekin (broken finger).
Yeguete played one minute before “tweaking” his knee during UF's 80-69 loss Tuesday night at Arkansas. But Donovan said the bone chips are something that Yeguete has been dealing with for awhile. Yeguete also has been suffering from knee tendinitis and has been limited in practice since December.
“When you've got those chips in there, your knee actually forms more swelling to protect the joint with those chips being in there,” Donovan said. “We don't want to get into a situation where once a week we're draining his knee and draining his knee and doing those kinds of things. I don't think that's healthy for him and just, right now, for him the best course is to get it resolved, get it taken care of and we'll get it back.”
Yeguete is UF's second-leading rebounder, averaging 6.3 rebounds and 6 points in 21.9 minutes off the bench. He's also versatile enough to guard multiple positions and creates havoc at the front of UF's press.
"He's very important,” Florida senior guard Mike Rosario said. “Obviously, he's one of our, like, dirty guys. That's what we would call it, like Dennis Rodman-type, grab every rebound, our hustle guy.”
Yeguete played that role for the Gators last season before suffering a broken foot on Feb. 21 against Auburn that sidelined him for the rest of the season. After the injury, the Gators lost three straight before regrouping in March.
“I feel bad for Will,” Donovan said. “As a coach, you're always going to deal with the players that are available to play. I feel more disappointed for him because I think he has worked hard. He's a good kid. He's obviously made a huge impact on our team.”
Last season, Prather filled Yeguete's role through the NCAA Tournament. But Donovan has concerns about the 6-foot-6 forward due to his own injury issues this season. Prather is just three games back from a high ankle sprain and missed UF's first four games this season due to a pair of concussions he suffered during preseason practices.
In 18 minutes off the bench against Arkansas, Prather had no points, two rebounds, two turnovers and four fouls.
“I don't think he probably has full strength in his foot right now.,” Donovan said. “He has got to go and push himself. He has been back in practice, but he has not been himself at all, in terms of athletically moving, cutting, jumping.”
With Prather still ailing, Donovan said that 6-foot-6 freshman DeVon Walker could see more time in the post rotation with starters Erik Murphy and Patric Young.
“I don't know if he is ready,” Donovan said. “We don't have a whole lot of choices now, but I will say this about DeVon Walker, which I like. He is highly competitive. He is a tough kid. I think he'll step in there and give us everything he has.”
Donovan also said the Gators could play more four-guard lineups until Yeguete's possible return, with 6-foot-4 freshman Michael Frazier II at power forward. Coming off the Arkansas loss, Florida next plays Saturday at home against Mississippi State.
“There's going to be some times in the game where we'll be in a normal, conventional lineup,” Donovan said. “But the bottom line is if Patric and Erik are not on the floor together we're unconventional. And they're not going to be on the floor together. So how do we play with a Devon Walker, a Frazier being in there."