Basketball Notebook: Yeguete Makes Press Work

Will Yeguete is the head the full court press that Florida rode to victory on Saturday. He's the free safety of the defense, reading where the ball handler is looking and where the rest of the offense is going. That's when his instincts take over. The press sets him up to react where he sees fit. With his instinctual ability to create steals and deflections, Yeguete has become a valuable weapon.

"There are a lot of decisions he has to make in the press—when to trap, when not to trap, and understanding how the floor is starting to look," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said after Florida's 73-65 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. He's got a real high IQ of understanding that. When he's in that moment where he can freelance around, he can create some problems."

When the opponent is inbounding the ball, Yeguete stands just inside the half court line and observes the situation. He learned quickly against Vanderbilt what he could and couldn't do. The Commodores would inbound the ball and run the player that inbounded it up the sideline.

If Yeguete left his perch too early to the trapping the ball who catches the inbound pass, he would easily be able to throw it over Yeguete's head and break the press. The sophomore forward recognized what Vanderbilt was doing and started to be patient before setting up the trap.

"Will was the main focus of that press," Florida guard Kenny Boynton said. "He did a great job of having his hands up and disrupting their passes."

Yeguete led the Gators with three steals and tied for the lead with one block. He also got into passing lanes to cause deflections.

His spot in the press is difficult, but Donovan said he's the best to play the position since Brent Wright was at Florida. It's tough to find a forward with the unique set of skills, but Yeguete fits the role well.

"From a stamina standpoint, it's really difficult," Donovan said of Will Yeguete's job in the press." When we score, he's really playing end line to end line the entire game. He's taking the ball out of bounds under the basket and he's the front man in our press. He really has 94 feet to cover."

That's why he has been referred to as the "difference maker" when the press is working.

"Will just played like Will today—a lot of interceptions and stolen passes," Florida guard Erving Walker said after the win over Vanderbilt. "He turned it around for us."

SHADOWING JENKINS: When the Commodores were able to get the ball past midcourt, John Jenkins was the focus of the Florida defense. On Friday, Donovan called him one of the top three shooters he has coached against in the SEC. The junior went for 15 points on 6-13 shooting and 3-8 from behind the three-point line.

Those numbers were tame compared to Jenkins' talent. No matter the lead Florida stretched out late in the second half, Jenkins' ability to get hot and not miss for three always kept Vanderbillt in the game.

"That was the main focus," Kenny Boynton said. "Jenkins is the heart of that team—he's the scorer. He went on a run at the end of the first half, and that was my fault. Overall as a team, Scottie and Brad helped me out, and we did great on him."

Boynton was the one that took on the challenge. He and Scottie Wilbekin are Florida's two best on-the-ball defenders, so Wilbekin would take on the duty when he came off the bench. Boynton held Jenkins to just one shot attempt in the first 12 minutes of the game.

The press created 17 turnovers, but part of its design was to keep Jenkins from getting his normal looks.

"(Vanderbilt head coach) Kevin (Stallings) runs a lot of things to get him shots," Donovan said. "Because of the press and the style of play, we took some of that away. He's just a hard guy because he can do it in so many different ways. We really talked about trying to eliminate Jenkins' number of attempts."

FREE THROW PROGRESS: The biggest issue for the Gators during the non-conference schedule was free throws. It's not uncommon for Florida to throw four jump shooters on the floor together, so the issues at the line didn't make sense to players or coaches.

The Gators are still 10th in the SEC in free throw shooting (67.5%).

On Saturday, the improved free throw shooting helped Florida ice the game away. The Gators were 2-3 from the line in the first half while going 14-14 in the second half, including 4-4 in the last minute of the game when Vanderbilt was fouling on purpose.

"When we have that focus level that's necessary, we narrow our focus," Donovan said. "It's all focus. Some of the stuff with these guys is, when they're playing and get fouled, they're living in stuff that has happened in the past and their mind wanders."

Even Will Yeguete, who came into the game 9-30 (30%) from the free throw line, went 3-4 from the free throw line. Players are chalking up the change to a different level of confidence.

"So far in SEC play, I think we're a lot better," Walker said. "Guys are just stepping to the line with confidence."

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