Notebook: Wilbekin nearing return


Florida Gators guard Scottie Wilbekin drives past Michigan Wolverines guard Spike Albrecht during the second half of the Elite Eight game on Sunday, March 31, 2013 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Michigan defeated Florida 79-59 to advance to the Final Four.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 9:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 9:00 p.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan has grown more convinced that senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin deserves a third chance.

Donovan announced during UF's media day that Wilbekin will rejoin the team in practice on Friday. Wilbekin was suspended from the team indefinitely last spring for the second time last May for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

“I am really, really proud of him and what he has done and the way he has handled and conducted himself,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “From the spring all the way until now, it has been a long, long road for him being disconnected from our team, not working out with our team and not really being around our team and slowly trying to work his way back.”

Wilbekin, a Gainesville native and former Rock School standout, was not made available to reporters for comment. The 6-foot-2 guard will still likely miss a number of games to start the 2013-14 season as part of his discipline.

“He has done everything that I could ask of him as a player in terms of taking responsibility and growing,” Donovan said. “He still has some things in front of him before he is fully back on our team, but we will give him the opportunity to practice.”

The eventual return of Wilbekin to the court should help the Gators moving forward during the course of the 2013-14. Last season, Wilbekin emerged as one of the top perimeter defenders in the country while averaging 9.1 points last season. He also finished second in the Southeastern Conference in assists (5.0 apg), with an assist-to-turnover ratio (174-74) of 2.4-1.

No longer confused

After a week of drama during the offseason, sophomore forward DeVon Walker sounded happy to be back at Florida.

Shortly after the end of the spring semester last May, Walker announced he was transferring from Florida. A week later, though, Walker changed his mind and returned to UF.

“That week there was one of the most confusing weeks of my life,” Walker said. “I think what ultimately what made me come back was we had some miscommunications and misunderstandings, simple stuff, but once we got it solved I was basically booked.”

Asked what were the miscommunications, Walker responded: “Just about my future. Where we saw each other. Where I would end up with my role.”

Walker playing sparingly as a freshman, appearing in 25 games and averaging just 4.0 minutes per game. Trying to find minutes in another deep frontcourt could be challenging for Walker again this season, but he said the coaches haven't approached him about redshirting.

Walker said he spent “every day” in the weight room to add bulk to his 6-foot-6 frame. Lack of physical strength was an issue for the Winter Haven native during his freshman season. Walker is at 195 pounds, up from 185 pounds during his freshman year.

“I heard about it every day,” Walker said. “The small times I was in the game, sometimes I was physically dominated. I felt like I lacked it.”

Carter mum on Rutgers scandal

Eli Carter is looking forward to his time with Florida, but didn't have much to say about the school he left behind.

Carter was one of four players who transferred from Rutgers last spring in the wake of the player abuse scandal involving former Scarlet Knights coach Mike Rice. All four received waivers from the NCAA to play right away this spring. A video released to ESPN showed Rice throwing basketballs at players and physically confronting them.

“It made my family just want to look for different things, start over,” Carter said. “Just have a new beginning, that's all.”

Carter had a strong relationship with Florida assistant coach Rashon Burno, and hit it off well with Donovan during a spring visit. Carter, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard who averaged 14.9 points per game for Rutgers last season, has been slow to heal from a broken right leg. He suffered a fractured fibula that has tightened up during workouts and is still working to get strength back in the leg.

Carter did not elaborate when asked about his relationship with Rice.

“Everyone has seen the tape, but I'm just focused on what my career is here at Florida,” Carter said. “What I can bring the team.”

Young slimmer

Something noticeable from UF's media guide roster: Florida senior center Patric Young is listed at 240 pounds, down from 249 pounds last season.

Young said he's actually at 245 pounds.

“It should help my knees, help me get over the (knee) tendinitis, move quicker,” Young said. “I played at 255 (pounds) last year and it affected my knees, my ankles. We'll see. It's a long year.”

Donovan has contended that Young is a player who is capable of playing in spurts, but unable to sustain energy to play up and down the court for long stretches. The decrease in weight should help. Donovan said he made conditioning a priority for Florida strength and conditioning coach Preston Greene during the offseason.

“One of the things that Patric has always had a hard time with, because of how muscular he is, is his tightness, his size — we have tried to keep his weight down and adjusted his lifting,” Donovan said. “I think conditioning-wise, he'll be better with eight or 10 pounds off of him. His body fat has always been low. The more muscle he puts on, he becomes a lot stiffer, he's not as fluid. He's strong enough as is. How much stronger can the guy get? He's strong enough right now.”

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