While many college basketball programs have already begun practicing, taking advantage of the new NCAA rule that allows schools to get going 42 days before their season opener (having 30 practices to use), the Florida Gators have yet to hold their first full practice.
Head coach Billy Donovan made the decision to wait until October 11, choosing instead to use this time for individual workouts. The hope is that the Gators will be able to go through preseason practices without having the flow upset by the need to throw in an extra off day in order to satisfy the new NCAA rule.
Could the extra time keep the Gators fresh when games begin on November 8 (Florida opens against North Florida)? With Rutgers transfer Eli Carter (leg) and senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) both yet to be cleared and Scottie Wilbekin still suspended (and working out away from the team), Florida won’t be at full strength when they take the floor a week from Friday.
“[Yeguete] still not cleared to play, don’t know when he’ll be cleared to play,” Donovan said before Wednesday night’s Jimmy V Classic Gala in New York City. “Will not start practice our first day. He’s still in the process of rehabbing.”
Donovan said Carter “still is in the process of recovering” from a broken leg he suffered last February that ended his sophomore season at Rutgers.
How much of an impact Carter has for Florida remains to be seen, but with Wilbekin also sidelined having Carter available would help as Florida looks to develop freshman point guard Kasey Hill.
But there should be no doubting the importance of Yeguete, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Yeguete’s versatility allows him to defend multiple positions, something none of their other front court players were able to do last season. That may change thanks to the presence of Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith and South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris, but neither has Yeguete’s experience in Donovan’s system.
The hope is that both Carter and Yeguete are cleared before the regular season begins, and with the Gators visiting Wisconsin in their second game of the season (November 12) having a game under their belts before the trip to Madison would certainly be optimal.