Gator Bench Shortened Again

When Billy Donovan put together the roster for this season he couldn't wait to make use of a long deep bench to return to the kind of pressing the Gators used to do. That plan started to go awry with injuries to Eloy Vargas and Adam Allen. Then sophomore guard Jai Lucas decided to transfer after the first exhibition game, and a 12-man team was down to nine.

Now Florida has learned they will be without freshman forward Alan Chaney for at least a couple of weeks. Donovan made the announcement Thursday that Chaney has a stress reaction in his heel.

"He's probably going to be out for a couple of weeks," Donovan said. "He won't be able to practice and he won't be able to play in the game against Kentucky. That's not good for us practicing and going forward. I really thought he was starting to do some good things and doing some things in practice where I was gaining some more confidence and giving him some more minutes. Hopefully someone else in our front court will step up a little bit."

I asked Donovan which is more likely; relying on Kenny Kadji and Eloy Vargas to take up the slack or going small and playing Chandler Parsons more at the power forward with Ray Shipman at the "3".

"I think that's an interesting thing that I go back and forth with as a coach. Now with Allan Chaney being out that eliminates a power forward for us for the next couple of weeks. I think Ray getting some more minutes seems to be the best, most logical thing for us. He's got to respond well here in practice the next three or four days."

Donovan looked at the pros and cons of going with a smaller frontcourt.

"There are times where playing Dan Werner and Chandler together out there kind of gives us a little bit of an advantage offensively because we can space the floor and those are two really good handling and passing guys. But you give up a lot on the defensive end of the floor when it comes to rebounding and post defense and some of those things. You try to play some zone to mask it but you still got to rebound the ball. You go a little bit bigger and play Kadji and (Alex) Tyus some maybe you rebound the ball a little bit better, but maybe you're not quite the scoring team you can be…. I think it's going to change for us game to game based on how the game is going and what we need to do. There's no question that going to an unconventional lineup is something that maybe could help us and we did some of that against South Carolina playing Werner at the five and Parsons at the four."

One guy who might help is 6-10 freshman Eloy Vargas who has played very little this season. Vargas has played just 21 minutes this season, eight in SEC games. Still, Donovan sees a chance the big rookie could play more.

"Eloy is getting better. He's gotten better the last four or five days and maybe if he can continue to show strides he would be a guy that we would plug in there to see what he could do in the absence of Allan Chaney."

Donovan also pointed out that his freshman class played a major role in Florida's ability to bounce back from the late night loss at Tennessee.

"I didn't know what was going to happen in the game against South Carolina; but after the Tennessee game coming back on Sunday we got delayed on our flight and didn't get back till 4:30 in the morning and we practiced as seven. We had a great practice Sunday night and we had a great practice on Monday because our freshmen took practice to a different level. What happens a lot of times to freshmen this time of year when they're not playing a lot they have a tendency to start throwing away the year and they start worrying about next year. Our guys appear to have the mindset that 'We have to get better'."

The Gators have the weekend off and will return to action next Wednesday at Kentucky. Florida will take a 19-4 record into the off weekend and lead the SEC East at 6-2.


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