Yeguete could return during regular season

After Florida's disappointing loss at Missouri on Tuesday, head coach Billy Donovan did have some encouraging news to announce on Thursday afternoon. The Gators could get junior forward Will Yeguete (knee) back sooner than expected. He's already going through light running during his rehab and could even return for the final three games of the regular season.

The original expectation was for Florida to get Will Yeguete back for the Southeastern Conference Tournament. He had arthroscopic knee surgery five weeks from the start of the tournament, and the timetable announced after the surgery was 4-to-6 weeks. It could be even less than that.

Nothing is set in stone as Yeguete heads into the tough part of his rehab, but the coaches and trainers are optimistic with the way it looks as he begins to do light running.

"I think he's ahead of schedule from where we first thought it was going to be," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "The biggest thing is going to be once he starts getting back into the flow of running, exercising, non-contact stuff, what happens to his knee? Does it continue to swell again? That's what they'll have to take."

Returning for the final three games of the regular season would put Yeguete back on the floor when the Gators face Alabama on March 2 at noon. The final two regular season games are on March 6 when Florida hosts Vanderbilt and March 9 when Florida travels to Rupp Arena to face Kentucky.

It could be any of those games, or it could be in the SEC Tournament. There's nothing set in stone. The good news for Florida is that Donovan is becoming more open to an earlier return date based on what he's hearing from team doctors and trainers.

"He's way on target and way ahead of schedule right now in terms of where he should be," Donovan said. "He's way ahead of that. We're getting through a difficult part right now for him, where we're going to see how his knee is in terms of swelling once he starts running and doing those things."

Donovan was clear to point out he wasn't guaranteeing anything about Yeguete's return. He has worked his way off crutches, and as the progress continues, they'll have a better idea.

"I'm not saying it's a guarantee," Donovan said. "That will depend on how he responds. He's moving quicker than I think the doctors thought. It's going to be totally up to them. It could mean the last three regular season games."

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