Indefinite suspensions seem to have become more common in recent years, with the designation allowing college coaches to (in theory) evaluate the suspended player over a length of time in order to make sure that a lesson’s been learned. One player in that position this offseason was Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin, who was suspended by head coach Billy Donovan in June for a violation of team rules.
Separated from his teammates, Wilbekin (who was suspended for three games to start last season) needed to show his coach that he’d made the changes necessary to once again be a valued member of the basketball program. During the team’s media day on Wednesday coach Donovan announced that Wilbekin’s been cleared to rejoin the team when practices begin on Friday (the Gators didn’t take advantage of the new rule that allowed teams to begin practicing on September 27).
But even with the clearance to practice Wilbekin will miss some game action to start the season.
Last season Wilbekin started 29 of the 35 games in which he played, posting averages of 9.1 points and 5.0 assists per game for a team that won 29 games and reached the Elite Eight. With the Gators having to replace their top three scorers (including guards Michael Rosario and Kenny Boynton) Wilbekin’s experience could potentially be an asset for a perimeter rotation that will include freshman Kasey Hill, Rutgers transfer Eli Walker (whenever he’s medically cleared after suffering a fractured leg in February) and sophomore Michael Frazier II (5.6 ppg; member of the USA U-19 World Championship squad).
But Wilbekin’s experience can only help Florida if he remains on the path charted out for him by Donovan and the coaching staff.
Florida also has an important health issue to address in the front court, with forward Will Yeguete (knee) yet to be cleared medically. They’ll work in a pair of transfers (Dorian Finney-Smith and Demontre Harris), with the goal of relieving some of the pressure on senior center Patric Young. At full strength the Gators are likely the team best equipped to challenge preseason favorite Kentucky in the SEC. It’s just a matter of how long it will take them to reach that point.