Notebook: Donovan hints at suspended players' return

Florida coach Billy Donovan has yet to lift the suspensions of Dorian Finney-Smith, Damontre Harris and Scottie Wilbekin through the No. 11 Gators' first two games. (AP Photo)

Published: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 10:33 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. — Florida coach Billy Donovan has remained non-committal about when suspended players Dorian Finney-Smith, Damontre Harris and Scottie Wilbekin could return.

All three players sat out their second straight game when Florida played Wisconsin on Tuesday night at the Kohl Center. None of the three made the trip.

Donovan dropped a hint that some of the suspended players could return soon.

"I think after this (Wisconsin) game I can probably see where these guys are at,” Donovan said. “There's things those guys need to be getting done. I don't want to come out here and project the future or say something that I've gotta sit there and take back and say, 'Well, I said they're playing or weren't playing and now they are playing,' so what's going on? What I've always tried to do is just be honest with what's the next thing in front of us.”

As a result of the suspensions, the Gators played with a rotation of eight scholarship players and two walk-ons for the second straight game.

“We've been practicing without those guys,” Florida sophomore guard Michael Frazier II said. “They've been on their own squad, really being on the scout team. We're prepared to go in there without those guys. We've been practicing without them so we have to go in there with what we have now and be prepared to be ready to play.”

Yeguete, Carter progressing

Given UF's depth woes, senior forward Will Yeguete (knee surgery) and junior guard Eli Carter (broken leg) are both playing at less than 100 percent. But Donovan said both are continuing to make progress.

“I think Will is progressing at a better rate than Eli is,” Donovan said. “Eli is the one guy that we've probably gotten into a little of a standstill, physically. He's made some pretty good growth and he's kinda leveled off right now. The hardest part for him, which I'm noticing is a major problem and puts us in harm's way from a defensive standpoint, is he has a very, very difficult time starting and stopping.”

Donovan said with Yeguete, it's more of a strength issue.

“His whole strength is not back yet,” Donovan said. “I thought in the game against North Florida, he was 0 for 4 and he did grab eight rebounds, but he seemed off-balanced to me a lot. Seemed like when he caught the ball he didn't have a real good base. He missed a couple layups that he rushed. He's gotta get his strength back. Those two guys are not — their injuries are healed, but they're lacking strength right now.”

Walker nearing eligibility

It's not a done deal yet, but McDonald's All-American freshman forward Chris Walker is getting closer to academically qualifying at UF.

Walker has completed his course work and met target scores for NCAA eligibility, according to multiple reports. But those scores must go through the NCAA Clearinghouse and UF for approval and enrollment.

If Walker enrolls for the second semester, he would be eligible to start practice at UF on Dec. 15 and available to play Dec. 17 when the Gators face Memphis at the Jimmy V Classic in New York City.

Three expected to sign

The fall signing period for Division I men's basketball begins today. Barring anything unforeseen, Florida is expecting three players from the Class of 2014 to sign their letters of intent — 5-foot-10 point guard Chris Chiozza (Memphis, White Station), 6-5 guard Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, Arlington Country Day) and 6-8 forward Devin Robinson (Chesterfield, Va., Christchurch School).

The class is currently ranked sixth in the nation according to, behind Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio State, Maryland and Georgetown.

UConn to O'Dome in 2014-15

Florida is getting its longest road trip of the season out of the way early. The Gators ventured more than 2,400 miles round-trip for the return of their home-and-home series with Wisconsin.

It's also the first of four big non-conference games for the Gators this season. After Wisconsin, the Gators will play Dec. 2 at No. 19 Connecticut, Dec. 10 at the O'Connell Center against No. 6 Kansas and Dec. 17 vs. No. 13 Memphis at the Jimmy V Classic in New York City.

Donovan has made it a point to strengthen UF's non-conference schedule in recent years to generate fan interest and help prepare his team for the NCAA Tournament.

“We're pretty much open to playing anybody if it would make sense in a given year,” Donovan said.

Connecticut will return to face Florida at the O'Connell Center in the 2014-15 season, completing the home-and-home series between the two schools.

“When the league play starts in January, that's always a very exciting time for fans, people to come out,” Donovan said. “What we've tried to do is create a few games here in November and December that would maybe considered league games.”

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