Wilbekin back in lineup, set to play against JU
Published: Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 1:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 1:40 p.m.
Last June, after another suspension left Scottie Wilbekin outside the team looking in, Florida coach Billy Donovan gave his returning starting senior point guard the option to transfer.
Who: No. 16 Florida Gators (4-1) vs. Jacksonville Dolphins (2-3)
When: Monday, 7 p.m.
Where: Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville
Gainesville-area TV: Fox Sports Florida
Gainesville-area radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM
“He wanted to fight and earn his way back,” Donovan said.
On Sunday, Donovan was satisfied that Wilbekin has done enough to earn another chance to wear a Gator uniform. Wilbekin will return from a six-game disciplinary suspension Monday when the Gators play at Jacksonville. Donovan said he doesn't know if Wilbekin will start, but said the Gainesville native will play “normal minutes.”
“He's available like anyone else,” Donovan said. “He's served his time and his punishment. And to his credit, he's done everything that's been asked of him. He's shown an incredible commitment to get back on the team and to do the right things and more so than anything else to really prove to his teammates that he's committed to the team. So I'm not going to hold him back at all.”
Wilbekin has been practicing with the Gators since mid-October, so Donovan expects a smooth transition for the 6-foot-2 guard.
“I've really designated him these first five games a lot on the scout team, utilizing him to get our team prepared for whoever we're playing against, so he knows what we're doing,” Donovan said. “He's a senior, a bright kid. I think he's anxious and excited to be back playing.
“I think the biggest thing for our team — and I've seen this happen before — is when you inject a good player and a veteran player into our team — we've played five games without him — it can't be a situation where our guys now relax and think that roles are going to change because roles are not going to change in terms of the responsibilities on our team.”
Wilbekin averaged 9.1 points per game as a starter last season and was second in the Southeastern Conference in assists (5.0 apg). He also emerged as one of the best perimeter defenders in the country and was named to the All-SEC defensive team.
“We're all excited that he's back,” Florida senior center Patric Young said. “He's proven that he's fully invested into the program with his work ethic and everything he's done and steps he's taken to this point.”
Donovan said he thinks that Wilbekin's suspension, his second in the span of eight months, also has made him more humble. The veteran coach said he's seen that humility translate on the court during preseason practices.
“There was a part of Scottie where even in games and practice, when things weren't going well for Scottie or his team, he could kind of disconnect from the team and try to take it all on himself and make things happen while losing sight of how to utilize other people.” Donovan said. “I think he's really done a very good job of having an awareness not only of his own game but of what's going on with other guys
The news continues to be not as promising about the return of junior center Damontre Harris, who has been suspended since the beginning of the season for violation of team rules.
Donovan said Harris has not been with the team since Nov. 1.
“Right now, he's been gone for 25 days,” Donovan said. “I don't have any hope he's going to come back. We're still going to try to help him and work with him and try to get him to do the things he needs to do, but there's no level of accountability on the things that he needs to do on a regular basis.”
Donovan said the 6-foot-10 South Carolina transfer is digging himself “a deeper and deeper hole.” He also said what he's asking Harris to do to return from suspension isn't hard or challenging.
“Going to school, being on time, if you have an appointment, show up, be able to answer your phone, take responsibility, do what you are supposed to do,” Donovan said. “When you don't do those things on a consistent basis, at some point, as much as he want to help him, to grow and move in a positive direction at some point, there has got to be an accountability on where is he at in terms of making a commitment to do the things he would like to do.
“What he would like to do is be back playing, but there's things he has to do to get back. You can't miss 25, 30 days and just expect to walk back on the team.”
FREE THROWS: Donovan said that injured point guard Kasey Hill (high ankle sprain) has been able to take off his walking boot and begin light rehabilitation at the UF basketball practice facility. Donovan said the timetable for Hill's return is still 2-3 weeks. “A lot of it going to be pain tolerance of where he's at.” Donovan said. “He's anxious to get back but he also understands that he has to be very, very forthright with what he is experiencing physically, so we can help him get better.”
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G DeVon Walker 6-6 So. 4.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg
G Michael Frazier II 6-4 So. 13.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg
F Casey Prather 6-6 Sr. 17.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg
F Will Yeguete 6-7 Sr. 6.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg
C Patric Young 6-9 Jr. 9.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg
JACKSONVILLE PROBABLE STARTERS
G Jarvis Haywoood 6-4 So. 15.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg
G Vince Martin 6-2 RSr. 10.8 ppg, 4.8 apg
F J.R. Holder Fr. 6-7 3.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg
F Javon Dawson Sr. 6-6 14.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg
F R.J. Slawson 6-9 RSr. 9.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Notes: Florida is 29-5 all-time against Jacksonville. … The Gators are 10-1 against Jacksonville under current coach Billy Donovan. … The game will be a homecoming of sorts for senior center Patric Young, a Jacksonville native. Young said he expects about 50-100 friends and family at the game. Young is averaging 12.7 ppg and shooting .536 from the field. … The Gators have outrebounded their last three opponents by an averaging margin of plus-7.7. … Florida leads the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 59.2 points per game. The Gators have held their last four opponents under 60 points. … Jacksonville returns three starters from a team that went 14-18 last season. … Starting Jacksonville forward R.J. Slawson transferred in from South Carolina as a graduate student.