UF's Yeguete part of postseason this time


Florida junior forward Will Yeguete missed six games in February after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, March 22, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 8:26 p.m.

AUSTIN, Texas — Will Yeguete sat in the Florida locker room with an ice bag on his right knee, his trademark mohawk haircut and a handful of Uno cards. He didn't win the hand, but that wasn't going to take away from his good mood.

Facts

NCAA Tournament

Who: No. 3 seed Florida Gators (26-7) vs. No. 14 seed Northwestern State Demons (23-8)
When: 7:27 p.m.
Where: Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas
Gainesville-area TV: truTV
Gainesville-area radio: 103.7 FM

This is so different for Yeguete, because tonight he's going to play.

A year ago, he was with his teammates, but he wasn't part of the proceedings. A broken foot sidelined Yeguete late in the season and cost him the postseason.

“It wasn't hard because we were winning, but it was hard because I wasn't playing,” he said. “It made it easier that I knew I could come back.”

The plan last year was to get Yeguete ready for the Final Four if the Gators made it that far. He practiced with them and had an MRI before the Louisville Elite Eight game that cleared him.




Alas, Florida came up short and Yeguete had to wait the following season to get his chance.

And then it happened again.

“It was almost the same time of the season,” he said. “It was discouraging. Again?”

This time it was the right knee, but this time there was surgery available that could get Yeguete back on the floor quicker than a year ago. He said he will require major surgery after the season to replace a missing piece of cartilage in his knee.

So yes, he is playing in the NCAA Tournament tonight without a necessary piece of cartilage in his right knee.

But the key is that he is playing.

“I'm happy for him,” Billy Donovan said. “That's a hard thing, because I was with him and we went through having a sit-down about having to have surgery.

“He cried about as hard as I've ever seen anyone cry before. Because he wanted to play. His initial reaction was, ‘I can play. I'll try it.' But it would have never worked. I'm happy he's going to play and experience this.”

Yeguete has struggled to find the form that he was displaying before the injury but looked closer to the old Will Yeguete on Sunday against Ole Miss.

“He's back the way he was,” said senior Kenny Boynton. “In practice he's been active on both ends of the floor.”

Yeguete has made only one appearance in the Big Dance, 11 minutes of mop-up time against California-Santa Barbara in the first round in 2011. Tonight, he'll be an important piece of the puzzle for the Gators.

“He's much better,” Donovan said. “But he's not at that level (where he was pre-injury) for us. I think he can get there. We'll need that in a hurry.

“Having him out there is certainly much more important than having him sitting on the sidelines on crutches.”

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