GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — No. 8 Florida has been through this before — all year really.
The Gators will be without two key backups at Tennessee on Tuesday night, the latest injuries woes for coach Billy Donovan’s team.
Guard Michael Frazier II (concussion) and forward Will Yeguete (knee) will miss the game, but could be back Saturday against Alabama.
Frazier sustained a concussion last Saturday against Arkansas when he went head-first into Scottie Wilbekin’s knee while chasing a loose ball. Yeguete had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Feb. 8 to remove loose bodies.
Their absences will leave the Gators (22-4, 12-2 Southeastern Conference) short-handed against the Volunteers (16-10, 8-6).
That’s nothing new for Donovan, who’s become accustomed to juggling his roster this season.
Florida already has played without point guard Wilbekin (suspension), guard Mike Rosario (ankle), forward Casey Prather (concussion, ankle) and forward Erik Murphy (broken rib). The result: Donovan has had his entire rotation available for just seven games this season.
“It’s been kind of some strange stuff that’s happened,” Donovan said Monday. “The one thing that’s been good is that our guys have responded. That’s been the one positive. … We’ve just gotten, obviously this year, a large rash of it. It’s been a blessing that it hasn’t been a situation where guys, their season has been over. They can’t come back.
“It’s been these things that have happened that have kept guys out for a few games here or there, or guys have had to play through certain situations. But I think to a certain extent, maybe not to the extent that we’ve had to deal with, but guys are always dealing with different issues or challenges or problems.”
Frazier, a freshman averaging 6.4 points a game, has yet to fully pass his baseline concussion test, so Donovan ruled him out against Tennessee, which has won six of the last seven meetings at home.
Yeguete, a junior averaging 6.0 points and 6.3 rebounds, ran sprints on consecutive days last week and had no swelling issues afterward — positive signs for his return. He also went through shoot-around before Florida’s win over the Razorbacks.
But Yeguete won’t be cleared to play until he starts practicing, which could happen later this week.
“It’s hard because we definitely miss those guys,” said Prather, a 6-foot-6 small forward who might have to play some center Tuesday.
Donovan initially said Yeguete would be out at least until the postseason, but the 6-foot-7 Frenchman is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation.
“He’ll get to the point where maybe he’ll be in practice where there’s no contact, where he’s just running, cutting, moving, down in his stance, shooting, those kind of things,” Donovan said. “We’ll wait again to see how he responds. There’s a process he has to go through before the doctors feel comfortable. The thing that would set him back would be the swelling part of it.
“They are not going to thrust him so fast into doing something just to have him set back. So they are going pretty slow with him right now just to see how he responds, but they are starting to do more and more.”
The biggest issue for Yeguete right now, Donovan said, is that he doesn’t like the brace trainer have him wearing.
“It’s kind of restrictive,” Donovan said. “It’s something he needs to get used to, and most players don’t like playing with something on them like that.”
Until Frazier and Yeguete return, Florida will be down to six of its usual, eight-man rotation.
That means at least one of Donovan’s other three freshmen — Braxton Ogbueze, DeVon Walker or Dillon Graham — will be thrust into an expanded role against the Volunteers.
“They’ve got to get in early,” said Donovan, whose team needs one win to clinch a first-round bye in the SEC tournament. “We’re not going to be able to get through this game with just six guys. It’ll be totally impossible, especially if you get some foul trouble. … We’ve got to change, there’s no question. We have to change. We have to do a lot of different things.”