Notebook: Yeguete thrives on hustle plays

The work of forward Will Yeguete goes underappreciated throughout the course of the season. But when the senior has a game like he did on Saturday against Pittsburgh, his impact is tough to miss. Yeguete was all over the floor, diving for loose balls and starting fast breaks, as the Florida senior class clinched its fourth straight appearance in the Sweet 16.

The stat line shows a little of what he did. Yeguete had eight points and four rebounds with one assist, one block and one steal. It's an average game for some of the more established scorers on the Florida roster, but for Yeguete, it's perfect because of what it doesn't show.

With Florida up 34-26 and 12:35 to play, the senior forward hedged out on a Pittsburgh guard, knocking the ball away and beating him to the ball before it went out of bounds near midcourt. Instead of grabbing it and calling a timeout, Yeguete caught it and launched the ball behind his back. It went perfectly up the court in stride to Casey Prather.

It looked like only a steal in the stat sheet, but it altered momentum of the game and gave Florida its second double-digit lead of the game. Yeguete ended up on the ground for what felt like more than half of his 23 minutes of play.

"It's huge. He's big," Billy Donovan said of Will Yeguete's impact. "You look down at the stat sheet and he takes 2-5 shots a game, but he does so many things in the press, such a great cover guy in our defense and a great help defender. He's the epitome of a guy that when you look down on the stat sheet, it's hard to have a level of appreciation for him."

But that questionable appreciation doesn't come from inside the Florida locker room. Plenty other players have had their accomplishments celebrated. Scottie Wilbekin was named SEC Player of the Year, Patric Young was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and Casey Prather led the team in scoring after being a role player in his first three years.

Yeguete didn't undergo the same recognition the other three seniors did this season, but Donovan has done his best to make the senior understand how important he is to what the Gators do.

"I've always tried to talk to Will about how much I appreciate him," Donovan said. "He really impacts winning. He really impacts the game in a positive way for us. What he does is really, really rare and hard to find. It's hard to find guys who hang their hat on being the dirty work guy. It doesn't give a lot of headlines but he's not a headline guy. He does a lot for our team."

The approach hasn't changed for Yeguete. He became the most important man in the Florida full court press during his sophomore season after being an under the radar recruit out of high school. His motor never stops, and even while knee surgeries have taken away his lift, he still finds ways to impact the game around the rim or in the open floor.

"I was just trying to be aggressive defensively," Yeguete said. "I was able to tip the ball sometimes and able to make plays."

CHANGING FOCUS: Donovan's disappointment in his team was easy to see after Florida's win over Albany on Thursday. He was angry about his team's lack of focus and drive that got them to that point.

To fix it, there wasn't a physically demanding practice to recapture his attention. Instead, it was a film session. Donovan flipped on film from the Albany game and showed multiple points in the game that made him angry and didn't look like the team that rode a 27-game winning streak into Saturday's game against Pittsburgh.

"You always want to play to your identity and who you are. I didn't feel like we did that," Donovan said of the Albany game. "We didn't play to our identity there because we hadn't done that all year long. That's why I was disappointed. I saw things inside of our team that I did not like. It was nothing bad like a bad attitude or having a problem with one another.

"There was just a frustration, personal expectation and the game not going like they wanted it to go. I just wanted to make sure that they understood that and we got back to who we were."

The team had a quiet Friday, trying to keep the players off their legs as much as possible with the quick turnaround. And it worked.

"I don't think any of them disagreed with what I had to say, and I think they understood where I was coming from," Donovan said. "Hopefully that helped us get prepared for this game."

Wilbekin added, "Coach was really getting on us and challenging us, asking us if that was really the team we wanted to be in the last couple of games we have. We wanted to come out and not let them play harder than us. I think we did a good job of having our energy up at the start of the game. We played together."

BELICHICK A FRIEND: New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick spent his Saturday watching Florida play. After spending time this week traveling to Florida schools to watch NFL Draft prospects work out, Belichick sent a text message to Billy Donovan saying that he wanted to be there on Saturday when his team played Pittsburgh.

The two have been close for enough years that Donovan couldn't remember when they first met, dating back to a trip Donovan took to Boston to meet with Belichick.

"I've really enjoyed my relationship with him," Donovan said. "You get a chance to talk to a guy like that and most of the stuff that we're talking about is the whole coaching perspective and dealing with people, motivating and inspiring people. I always appreciate the amount of time he has given me and time we have spent with one another."


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