Banged up Gators still healing

Florida practiced with just seven players on Monday and Tuesday this week. The Gators knew they would be without guard Eli Carter (leg) and forward Will Yeguete (knee) during the early portions of preseason practice, but the injury list grew on Monday when big man Damontre Harris was held out with a hamstring injury and guard Michael Frazier continues to deal with a virus.

The hamstring injury popped up for Damontre Harris during preseason conditioning and hasn't gone away. He was held out of practice on Monday, and Donovan was informed early Tuesday that Harris would miss his second practice in a row. The injury doesn't seem like much of a concern, as Donovan noted that trainers wanted to rest him to keep the injury from getting worse.

Michael Frazier's virus hasn't provided many answers yet. It kept him out of practice on Monday and Tuesday, and the sophomore guard had some blood work done that should provide results on Wednesday.

The numbers are getting thin as the Gators continue preparing for their exhibition opener on November 1.

"A lack of numbers right now," Billy Donovan said. "We're basically down to seven guys. There has been little rest. There has not been a lot of depth. They've worked hard. We're trying to make the best of the limited numbers in the time we have to get better."

The injury bug is even hurting the walk-on players.

Redshirt junior Billy Donovan, son of the head coach, suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder during the offseason. Harris missed all of practice last season after electing for surgery to repair it, but Donovan will not have the surgery done and wants to play through it.

Will Yeguete is participating in the non-contact portions of practice. When the Gators get into simulated game action, Yeguete spends more time working with the trainers to rehab the knee.

It's not good news for Eli Carter, who continues to rehab his leg. Yeguete is expected to return to practice before Carter.

"Will is further along right now," Donovan said. "We're hopeful maybe in a couple weeks we can get him back in practice on a limited basis."

The veteran players are used to limited numbers. The Gators have battled multiple injury plagued seasons and training camps in recent years, and they've also seen the positive that come from it late in the year.

"It's challenging, but it prepares us to go further in the season because you never really know what's going to happen," senior forward Casey Prather said. "It's a good challenge for us."

DEFENSE AN ISSUE: Donovan was quick to point out his disappointment in the team's defense early in practice. He noted that it could be a function of the limited numbers and extra fatigue for players, but the early indications from practice show a defense that needs to pick up the slack.

"We are drastically worse than we were defensively a year ago," Donovan said. "Defensively last year, it was one of the better defensive teams I've been around since being here at Florida. Just us keeping field goal percentage defense and some of those things where our numbers are at in relation to last year and some things we're charting, it's way, way off right now."

The lack of defense leaves Donovan wanting to see more from the unproven players. Sophomores Dillon Graham and DeVon Walker will be counted on for extended minutes this season, and Donovan would prefer the two prove that they can handle it at the start of the season.

"Some of those older guys I wish were a little further along," Donovan said.

Last year's defense made the Gators go when they struggled with scoring slumps. They return the strong defensive play of Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young from the starting lineup, but the rest of the players need to gel to get the unit back to where it was when the season ended last year.

"We've just got to focus on each possession and being in the right spots," Donovan said. "Sometimes we move a little too fast for ourselves right now. We have to slow down and let the game happen.

"It is disappointing, but at the same time, it's something we can still get better at."

HILL ADJUSTING: Through his first four practices in college, freshman point guard Kasey Hill has been thrown into the fire. Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin will face a suspension to start the season, forcing Hill into the starting lineup.

Donovan doesn't want to overanalyze mistakes Hill makes this early in practice. The goal is to see him playing hard and aggressive.

"Kasey Hill has been fine," Donovan said. "The biggest thing with freshmen is, are they playing hard and picking things up? Kasey is doing those things right now. There are some things where he breaks down where it's not all his fault, it's just that he has four college practice and is learning an entirely new system. It's going to take him a little bit of time."

The defensive side has been the most difficult for Hill. He's learning an entirely new defense and how the Gators communicate when the opposition has the ball.

"Always staying active, always talking," Hill said about the key to adjusting to Florida's defense.

Facing Wilbekin in practice has prepared Hill for what he expects to see when the season starts. In their practice battles, Hill also uses the time to ask questions and continue learning from the senior.

"He has been here for four years, so I'm just trying to ask as much as I can, whenever I need help," Hill said. "He's a very good defender. We go at it every day. It's hard. He's one of the best defenders in the SEC."

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