Young having ‘his best year'

Billy Donovan did his best to take the spotlight off Patric Young before the season started. He talked down the expectations that continued to play tricks with Young's mind and made him try to do too much. Donovan wanted the Florida fan base to accept Young for the player he has been during his career and enjoy his senior season.

Young has made it easy for everyone to enjoy his final year in Gainesville, especially during the last six games. He opened the season with a slow start, averaging 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds during the first seven games of the year. In the six games since, Young has averaged 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. That six-game span included showdowns with Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis.

As the season has continued, Young has settled into his role for the Gators. He's playing with a different energy level during his final season in Gainesville.

"He's totally different," Billy Donovan said. "I think he's having his best year. I think he's playing very well. Earlier on in his career as a sophomore, even so much last year, he could not absorb really more than 25 minutes. And because of some injuries to Will Yeguete, and Murphy was in and out, we probably played him last year too many minutes. It probably wasn't fair to him. Physically, he had a hard time handling it."

The issues handling extended minutes were because of his weight. It was the center of attention for Patric Young in the offseason, and he dropped from 250 to 240 pounds by the start of his senior season.

He was forced into action as a sophomore and junior, on the court for more minutes than Donovan would've liked to use him. Now that he's in better shape, he's averaging 26.3 minutes and playing hard during all of them.

"He's in better condition," Donovan said. "I think he's running the floor better. I think he's chasing balls better. I think he's doing a lot more things that we would like to see him do that maybe were missing the last couple years. And Patric's an opportunity scorer when we get him the ball. He's going to get fouled some, and he gives us a presence at the basket. He's a big, strong kid. But I think his motor and his energy has been much, much better this year at this point in time than he was in previous years."

Young's teammates have seen the change. Even during his slow start to the season, they knew he would be improved. He's averaging 10.8 points per game this season, higher than the 10.2 points and 10.1 points he averaged as a sophomore and junior respectively.

"Oh yeah, he's been great," Will Yeguete said. "He's really been consistent in the past few games. His mindset, he's really focused and he's really giving us right now. He's just more vocal and he's more invested."

YEGUETE GETTING HEALTHY: Despite starting all 13 games this season, Will Yeguete is still not fully healthy. He admitted on Monday that he's still getting to 100 percent after undergoing microfracture surgery during the offseason. Yeguete played a season-low 18 minutes against Richmond on Saturday. His second lowest total was 20 minutes, coming against Savannah State two games ago.

Donovan said the minutes dipped against Richmond because the Spiders used a power forward who could shoot three-pointers, forcing Florida to go with a smaller lineup that left Yeguete on the bench. Donovan believes Yeguete is getting more confident and stronger on his knee, and he'll continue to be an important part of the team.

The slow climb to full strength continues for Yeguete, but he's confident in how he feels.

"I'm getting to 100 percent," Yeguete said. "I think I'm feeling better. I've just been working and uh sticking with what's been working, so I'm really excited for that. We'll see how that goes."

WALKER WAITS: There's no new update on freshman forward Chris Walker. His status is up in the air for Wednesday's game against South Carolina, and there's no clarity on when he'll be eligible to play. Walker has been accepted by the school and started college classes for the first time on Monday. He's practicing and working out with the team, but there's still no update on when he'll be able to play in a game.

"I'd like to get an answer as much as anybody would," Donovan said.

While Walker continues to practice with the team, he's improving and getting more comfortable in what the Gators run. The veterans on the team are trying to keep his spirits up despite the NCAA keeping him waiting.

"He's getting frustrated because he really wants to play," Yeguete said. "You can see it in his eyes that he wants to get on the court and run around a little bit and just be out there, but he understands that it's a process. We try to tell him every day to keep on working and pray for the best and hopefully he will be out there with us soon."

While the team waits for official clearance, the freshman continues to impress his teammates in practice. Even the seniors that have been in the program for four years are impressed at the natural athleticism and ability Walker has added to the team.

"He's really athletic," Yeguete said. "He can rebound the ball and he runs the floor really hard. He has a lot of energy, and I think when he can be out there, he'll help us a lot. He just wants to play. I think he really plays 110 percent. It doesn't matter how much he plays, so hopefully I think he'll get a chance to play soon."

Fightin Gators Top Stories