Practice altered because of numbers

Gator basketball gets started for real next month, but practices started on Friday. Florida head coach Billy Donovan has had to change things up a little bit while a couple of his troops heal from injuries. It is another learning experience with this new group of Donovan's one that is much different than a year ago.

Junior transfer guard Eli Carter is still healing from an injury he suffered a year ago and is out indefinitely, senior forward Will Yeguete is being held out until probably just before the start of the season recovering from knee surgery. With the two out, Billy Donovan has had to alter practice plans.

"Our guys attitudes have been good," Donovan told the media on Saturday. "Obviously we have some numbers issues with Will and Eli not able to practice, so the depth hasn't been great. Usually in this time of the year our practices have been in duration a lot longer because we've had more numbers. The fatigue factor hits these guys a lot quicker than it has in the past so I think we have to monitor where we're doing a lot of full court stuff then go to half court, then back to full court. We probably aren't going as long but making sure we've had a high level of intensity.

"Everyone that has been out there, their attitude has been good. Nobody has really stood out as being phenomenal, they have all done very well. I like their attitude, their work ethic, and the way they are coming together as a team in the way they are practicing."

One key addition for Florida is freshman point guard Kasey Hill. The flashy guard from only two hours away was a 5-star prospect in high school and has practiced well early on.

"He is playing very well in practice so far," Donovan said of Hill. "The biggest thing for me for freshmen is are they playing hard enough, competing hard enough, and picking things up. It's really hard because when you are with a group of veterans, a lot of times those veterans are so much further along in terms of understanding the system in terms of learning. I haven't had to hold back, or go slower. He has been absorbing and picking everything up so far."

Donovan is using this early time to match up Hill with senior guard Scottie Wilbekin, an All-SEC defender. Going against the best will only make him better and with Wilbekin's early return a bit in question, Donovan knows Hill needs to be ready.

"I have separated those guys because I think for Kasey to go against Scottie as a veteran guy is a good thing," Donovan said. "I also think based on Scottie's future, holding up to his end of the bargain and taking care of his responsibilities in the next phase before he actually plays in games… I think that Kasey needs to be in a situation where he needs to stand on his own two feet."

Donovan said there also could be a chance the two guards play together on the court at the same time this year.

"Absolutely I would play those two together," he said. "I think Scottie is a bigger, stronger guard. I think Scottie is in a position where he could slide off the ball or play the point. I would envision those two playing together."

Decision for Walker?

Sophomore DeVon Walker is back this season after spending a few days on the transfer wire. After rethinking the decision, Walker decided to stick it out at Florida and is back for his sophomore year. Now the wing player may have another decision and it won't be an easy one based on early returns this year.

"I think the biggest thing with DeVon with me, he has played very well," Donovan said of the first two practices. "I don't want to put him in a situation like last year where he got some limited action in the year as it relates to playing time. I think that happens to freshmen sometimes, but I believe DeVon can be a very good player.

"I will probably evaluate his progress over the next three weeks and evaluate how much he is in the rotation and if it isn't that situation (there is) a possibility of redshirting."

"A decision hasn't been made yet, but what I don't want to do is to put him in a situation where he plays early on because of injuries and when those guys come back we don't see him playing a lot and then he's back into the same situation. It will be something I'll monitor closely and he'll have a lot of input into that."

At this point it doesn't look like it will be the plan for Walker.

"I am really excited about his growth and his development and the way he is playing," Donovan said. "I could see him playing a lot of minutes. (But), I want it to be something I see happening throughout the course of the year and not just a stretch.

"As it relates to him right now it will be his decision. I will lay it out for him what it is, but it is hard right now because we've only had two practices, and I have seen how much better he's gotten. At the same time I don't want to put him in a situation where if he's going to play 3-4 minutes this year and he's going into a game and we have injuries. I want to feel comfortable as a coach that he will be a legitimate rotational guy for us. I think it could happen this year but it's ultimately a decision that he and I will sit down and talk about going forward."


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