The Florida men’s basketball team is coming off three straight Elite Eight appearances, and on Friday afternoon, it will look to begin the journey back and possibly beyond. Its first test will be against the University of North Florida which tips off at 3 pm.
The Gators will open up their season without senior guard Scottie Wilbekin as well as transfer players Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris due to their indefinite suspensions. Florida may also be without sophomore guard Michael Frazier who is recovering from mono. With those four players’ statuses up in the air, Florida will only have nine players on the active roster, two of which (Will Yeguete and Patric Young) are on the tail end of their own recoveries.
With Florida’s roster so depleted, the team will look to true freshman Kasey Hill as not only their point guard but as an instant leader as well. When asked about their new ball handler, Yeguete said he’s most impressed with Hill’s mindset to always learn.
“He’s smooth. He can really handle the ball and he can pass the ball really well. He seems really confident; he isn’t really afraid,” Yeguete said. “He knows what he’s doing, and he really wants to learn. He asked questions and he’s a really good listener.”
Yeguete has some health issues himself going into the regular season after undergoing microscopic surgery on his knee back in May. Yeguete saw some limited minutes in the team’s exhibition game versus Florida Southern and said he feels good going into their first game.
In his fourth season, Yeguete is projected to be a starter for the first time in his college career. He said it’s been a long time coming and feels honored to have an increased role on the team.
“It feels great because it’s been a process being here for three years. I’m really excited about starting the season and getting healthy,” Yeguete said. “I’m fortunate be able to play. So I just want to go out there and have fun with my friends and my teammates”
There are a few new rules in college basketball this year that were implemented to make the games more high scoring and fluid. One of those rules is the hand-check rule that forbids players from placing their hands on opponents when positioning on defense.
Under head coach Billy Donovan, Florida has been known for fast and effective defense. There’s been a few questions raised on whether or not these new rules will drastically change the way the Gators defend the lane, but Donovan said they’ll just have to adjust like everyone else does.
“We’re going to have to do a good job of adjusting as everybody is to the new rules and the contact, and that is going to be really, really important,” Donovan said. “I didn’t think we were too poorly affected by it in the exhibition game.”
The Gators open up their regular season at number eight in the USA Today Coaches poll.
The Florida women’s team also opens its season Friday against Bethune Cookman right after the men’s game. Coach Amanda Butler doesn’t have a lot of bodies but she likes what she has in talented players like returning senior guards Jaterra Bonds and sophomore Carlie Needles and transfer guards Antoinette Bannister and Cassie Peoples as well as McDonald’s All American freshman forward Ronni Williams.
You can hear live coverage of today’s game at 2:25pm on Country 103-7 The Gator with the women’s game live on ESPN 850 WRUF starting at 5pm.
For audio on the quotes above, click here: