Murphy's status against Wisconsin uncertain

With No. 10 Florida already down three players from the team that opened preseason practice, they're dealing with another blow that could be even bigger. Senior forward Erik Murphy missed practice on Monday with an illness and his status is in doubt with No. 22 Wisconsin coming to Gainesville on Wednesday night. It's another obstacle the Gators are forced to face this early in the year.

Florida coach Billy Donovan wasn't sure exactly the type of illness Murphy has been dealing with in recent days. The senior forward has been nauseous and throwing up while dealing with headaches. He wasn't in the basketball facility on Monday and didn't even watch the Gators practice.

Donovan wasn't sure how much he would be able to practice on Tuesday night.

"I'd like to put him in position to play tomorrow, but the problem is from the preparation and scouting report standpoint, because he was too sick to even be in there," Donovan said of Erik Murphy. "He missed all of (Monday). He hasn't watched any film or been through a walk through of what we're doing defensively or offensively. He's got a lot to catch up on."

Donovan didn't rule out Murphy from playing on Wednesday and says he "would hope" the senior forward will be on the court against Wisconsin. Murphy was at the facility on Tuesday and was going to watch practice and some film to learn some of Florida's plan for Wednesday's game.

If he can't play, the Gators would have a starting spot to fill. Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario would still start in the backcourt with Patric Young at center and Will Yegeute at power forward. The decision about a fifth starter would likely come from freshmen Michael Frazier or DeVon Walker.

It's just another issue on a long list of them for Florida this year. Redshirt sophomore forward Cody Larson decided to leave the program a week before the exhibition game. Casey Prather then suffered two concussions in a week period and is still out.

Starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin was suspended last Thursday for an undisclosed issue. If Murphy were out, the Gators would be without four players that were on the team when they started fall practice.

"We've had to battle early this year," Donovan said. "There have been some things that have thrown some wrinkles right before the season has started and forced us to make adjustments."

The problems with losing players for various reasons have translated to the practice court. Donovan said that transfer Dorian Finney-Smith, who is expected to play small forward when eligible next year, was guarding Young at center in practice on Monday. Walk-on Jacob Kurtz was guarding Yeguete at power forward.

"It's a little different," Yeguete said of practice. "We try to bring a lot of intensity and push each other to play physical. We foul each other just because it's going to be like that in the game."

The only time Donovan could remember a similar situation with so many players missing was 2001. That team dealt with Teddy Dupay (herniated disk), Brent Wright (broken foot) and Justin Hamilton (torn ACL) all in a ten-day span near the start of the Southeastern Conference schedule.

There is some experience Donovan can draw from.

"What you try to do is take the hand that you have and get those guys as prepared and ready as they can," Donovan said. "That's the hard part. You don't want guys overthinking because they're out of position, and now they're not reacting and playing. They're trying to figure out what to do."

The loss of players has hurt what the Gators do. It forced Yeguete to learn the small forward position after playing power forward only during his first two years. The Gators also had to fast track Walker at the power forward position to create depth. There were times against Georgetown where Yeguete was trying to inbound the basketball, forgetting that he was playing small forward and that wasn't his job.

The Florida players are working hard to focus on doing their jobs, but it's hard with the lack of experienced players. The four Florida freshmen will all be counted on for minutes now.

"Our young guys have had a good attitude to learn and be patient," Donovan said. "They understand there are some things going on early where they've got to pick things up. They've worked to pay attention and figure out what we need for them."

Fightin Gators Top Stories