Florida is already without junior center John Egbunu for the rest of the season. Freshman forward Keith Stone is working his way back slowly from a viral infection that caused him to miss a couple of games. Freshman center Gorjok Gak is healing from a sprain he suffered in practice early last week.
With so many out, the Gators may have to change up the way they play the game defensively, at least until they get a little healthier as a team/.
”We were able to defend at a really high level in Starkville sticking to our man-to-man, which has been our staple for a while now,” Florida head coach Mike White told the media in attendance at his Monday presser. “Even earlier in the year when we were zone pressing we were going back to man-to-man. We haven't done a whole lot of half-court zoning.
“We've had conversations as a staff about the possibility of doing it more out of necessity, with John out of course and being (shallower) up front. We're waiting for Keith Stone to get back to the way he was. We've got to get Gorjok Gak back healthy. In the meantime right now, I'd like to have a great zone we could throw at South Carolina and have a great one we could throw out there in Lexington moving forward, but I mean, what do you do?
“We're banged up as it is -- really banged up. We have three bigs out. Canyon Barry will be a game-time decision with his rolled ankle. We don't have much time to even focus on the court for South Carolina, let alone make wholesale changes to what we're doing. So it's a difficult time. We've got to find a way, but definitely under consideration playing some zone at some point."
As for Barry, White wasn’t very forthcoming with information as to the extent of his injury, if he even could be forthcoming.
“I don’t know,” he said about the severity of Barry’s sprain. “I don’t even know if Duke (trainer Dave Werner) has put a number on it.”
“I guess somewhat (minor injury), the last time he did it, it was the other ankle, and he missed a game. I think the early evaluation was Duke was hopeful that this one wasn’t quite as significant, so he didn’t go (Sunday). I don’t know if he’ll go today. I don’t expect him to go today and he’ll be a game time decision. There definitely was some swelling. I know if (he can) play, he’ll play.”
Stone missed a couple of games and plenty of minutes in others because of a viral infection that affected his balance and other things. A serious bout that seems to be alleviated, but he is still trying to get back on his feet.
“He's got to get back mentally with overcoming the virus he had and the dizziness and things like that,” White said.
“Balance, he’s still got some balance stuff going on, hesitancy, confidence, because of the balance and because of not getting a ton of reps. The guy got hardly any reps there for about two weeks in practice and it just takes time to come back from those things. He’s a shell of what he was, in the three or four games where he was terrific for us. And with our lack of depth, regardless, we need Keith back, especially with how banged up we are. We’ve got to have some production back from him if we can.”
Gak isn’t physically ready to handle the rigors of the SEC at such a young age, but with all of the issues in the front court, White needs some minutes from his freshman center.
”Not very comfortable to play heavy minutes, and I don't think it would be fair to him at least to expect a lot of productivity,” White said. “But Gorjok's a guy that like Keith Stone, like Kevarrius, he's a guy that plays within himself. I don't expect him to try to do things he can't do. He's going to play within himself offensively, and then defensively he's a presence. I mean, he's got a 7-4 wingspan. He's going to throughout his career continue to put on weight and add strength and all those things, but right now just being a body who moves his feet pretty well -- again, will move his feet better in time -- with all of that length he's going to have opportunities to help us down the stretch when he gets healthy.”
The Gators play at home Tuesday against South Carolina who has already beaten the Gators then have a road game against Kentucky and back home against Arkansas. With the Gators, these represent the top four teams in the SEC. They then finish the regular season with a road game against a Vanderbilt team that already beat the Gators in Gainesville.
It is a tough road for a SEC leading Florida program that has played at a high level for a while, but still feeling their way through the absence of Egbunu and having to deal with the other injuries as well. They have managed to pick each other up to get it done in the eight game winning streak, and they will have to keep doing it to finish what they started.