Gators Have Chance for Growth

Billy Donovan is pushing his team to look at the positive. They just lost their best post defender and rebounder for the season, and for a team without multiple players who scare opponents on the boards, Florida will need inexperienced players to mature. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, Donovan wants his team to grow closer tougher and fight through the adversity.

"There's an opportunity for Casey Prather to grow here and step up, for Cody Larson to step up and for our team to take on this challenge," Donovan said. "A lot of times an injury or loss of a key player is a great life lesson for them that coming together and trying to overcome is a great challenge.

"We've worked too hard in the offseason…to sit there and act defeated. We need to try to become better than we were before. That's what I'd hope we would do. Let's take on that challenge."

Larson and Prather are the two that will be counted on to try to make up for Will Yeguete's loss. Yeguete was averaging 3.8 points and 5.9 rebounds a game. Larson and Prather combine to average 0.5 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. Those shoulder change with the increased minutes they will get, starting Saturday at Georgia.

The decision between the two could be dependent on the way the Gators elect to play. When they go small and want to be more athletic, Donovan plans to slide Prather on the court. Larson gives them a stronger defensive presence, but his offense won't garner much respect from the opponents.

"Cody has done very well," Donovan said. "I felt the last couple weeks more confident in playing him. The one thing I have total faith and trust in is that he knows what he's doing defensively. He's pretty good to physically battle and do some things inside.

"He is not totally confident inside. He's not really a scoring threat. Him not playing has been more a product of Will playing well, Murphy's shooting ability and Patric's size and strength."

Yeguete's defense was what stood out, as Donovan called him the "most complete defensive player" on the team. His loss hurts the Florida press that has given opponents fits. Yeguete was a key component to that because of his instincts. Donovan believes Prather has the athleticism to play that role, too.

The Gators could also elect to go small. They have used the four-guard lineup throughout the season, but Donovan is thinking about adding a different touch to it now. Moving Erik Murphy to center and throwing four guards around him would give Florida a new look.

"That adds a different element for a team preparing for four guards and now Erik Murphy," Donovan said. "I don't recall a whole lot where we've had five three-pointer shooters on the floor at one time."

The other issue is health. Yeguete is lost for the season, but he isn't the only one dealing with injury. After Tuesday night's win over Auburn, Donovan said there were seven players getting treatment. Patric Young (ankle), Scottie Wilbekin (knee), Mike Rosario (hip), Larson (bursa sac) and Murphy (knee) were part of that group.

"We're banged up with just the normal wear and tear," Donovan said. "It's not anything that is a game-time decision. It's just all issues. It's not anything that's going to keep these guys from playing but it's enough that's hampering them where you can tell they're somewhat banged up."

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