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October 09, 2013

HOOPS: Unknowns everywhere as Gators kickoff practice Friday

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida basketball team opens practice Friday, but one of the SEC’s premier programs will kickoff the 2013-14 season with a plethora of unknowns.

Billy Donovan’s bunch must replace its top three scorers – Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, Eric Murphy -- and the Gators will kickoff camp shorthanded.

Starting senior forward Will Yeguete (offseason knee surgery) and junior guard Eli Carter (fractured fibula) won’t practice while continuing to battle significant injuries lingering from last season.

“I don’t know when they’ll be back. All I know is Friday they will not be available,” Donovan said.

“Right now you have to go with the guys that are there and in practice right away. Those are the guys you have to rely on and get them ready.”   

Yeguete, who underwent knee surgery late last May, is confident he will be ready to play in the opener Nov. 8 against North Florida.

(Will Yeguete)

However, Carter -- the Rutgers transfer who broke his leg in a game against DePaul last February -- had no timetable on a possible return.  

“The only expectation I have right now is to play [sometime this season,]” Carter said.

In mid-September, the NCAA declared Carter eligible to play immediately for Florida after leaving the Scarlet Knights at the end of the 2012-13 season following the scandal involving former Rutgers coach Mike Rice.

“I feel bad for Carter,” Donovan said. “Any time you transfer in and you start your career at a different school on an injured note and not really able to go out there and prove yourself and play every day, I think that’s been difficult.”

Meanwhile, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was reinstated to practice with the team, but remains suspended to start the regular season.

On June 10, Wilbekin was banned from all team activities after violating undisclosed team rules.

“I am really, really proud of him and what he has done and the way he has handled and conducted himself. From the spring all the way until now, it has been a long, long road for him being disconnected from our team, not working out with our team and not really being around our team and slowly trying to work his way back,” Donovan said.

“He has done everything that I could ask of him as a player in terms of taking responsibility and growing. He still has some things in front of him before he is fully back on our team, but we will give him the opportunity to practice.”

Wilbekin was not available for comment at Florida’s Media Day, but multiple teammates voiced their support for the senior, with sophomore guard Michael Frazier saying he’s excited to see Wilbekin back on the court.

During the summer, rumors also swirled that Dorian Finney-Smith, Damontre Harris and Casey Prather would be suspended to start the season, but Donovan addressed the alleged report, saying, “Everybody but Will Yeguete and Eli Carter is ready to practice going forward and on our team.”


(Donovan's opening statement at UF Media Day)


Five-star forward and McDonald’s All-American Chris Walker continues to work to qualify academically for the spring semester.

The freshman signee from Holmes County High failed to enroll in August, but Donovan is confident the 6-foot-10, 225-pound athletic big-man will wear a Gators uniform at some point this season.

“He’s working really, really hard. I’m optimistic that he’ll be back here,” Donovan said.

Florida’s coach said Walker’s recruitment and the ensuing limbo reminded him of the Kwame Brown situation in 2001. After committing to UF, Brown never enrolled at Florida and was the No. 1 overall pick by the Washington Wizards in the NBA Draft.  

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Notebook: Easley in good spirits, LSU's 10-year reunion & injury updates

First: ICYMI: A piece on quarterback Tyler Murphy’s steady demeanor, with a couple notes on Florida’s kickoff time against Georgia Southern and a comment from offensive coordinator Brent Pease on the possibility of redshirting tailback Kelvin Taylor.


Two weeks ago, star defensive tackle Dominique Easley could barely stomach watching the Gators play Kentucky after suffering a season-ending knee injury (ACL) earlier in the week. 

But according to UF defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, Easley “has his spirits back,” and remains a vital part of the team moving forward.

“He's been around [the facility.] Dominique is a big part of our team even though he's not playing. His personality, his energy is something that is contagious to all those around him,” Durkin said. “He's got great respect from the coaches, from his teammates, and so he's a guy we want around as much as we can, and he's been around. He's a part of this team no matter what."

Durkin talked of a special relationship with Easley -- a player he recruited to Florida as a staff member under former coach Urban Meyer -- and downplayed the tricky situation of Easley rehabbing for the NFL Draft.

“Dominique and I have spent four years here together. He's a special guy to me. I feel for him, but you know what, he's as tough as they come,” Durkin said. “Sometimes you get dealt tough circumstances and that's where tough guys rise to the top, and he'll rise to the top. He'll play a lot of football.

“He's still a great career ahead of him. I think we all saw that in the snaps we were able to get out of him. He's a difference maker, a great football player and he'll have a great future."


LSU will honor its 2003 national championship team for its 10-year reunion at halftime Saturday, but coach Will Muschamp -- the Tigers’ defensive coordinator that season -- will not participate in the celebration.

“I’m worried about that 2013 LSU team not the 2003 one, that’s for sure,” Muschamp said. “But it will be good to see those guys, I guess, on the field a little bit. It was a special group. One of the players sent me a picture when I was at Texas of the team and wanted me to sign it and send it back to him. Just looking at the pictures, it was guys who understood their role in the organization. Guys that are all successful people. Granted, we had a bunch of guys go play on Sunday, but we had a bunch of successful people whether they are teachers or they are in the business world, they have all done an outstanding job, and it was a lot of fun.”

Muschamp pointed out the Tigers’ lone loss in 2003 was to Florida (19-7).

“Old Ben Troupe and Ciatrick Fason got after us pretty good that day and Chris Leak, who is on our staff as a graduate assistant now,” Muschamp reminisced. “It was a special year. Nothing but great memories. I’ve got great respect for the LSU program. I think any time in the coaching profession you spend a time at a place, you always have fond memories of it. Carol and I still have great friends in Baton Rouge.”


Muschamp said cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) had his best practice since he’s been back and “will be full-speed Saturday ready to go.” Also, freshman linebacker and special teams ace Jarrad Davis (cheek laceration) will play Saturday, but Alex Anzalone, a freshman reserve linebacker, will miss the game with a sprained ankle he suffered in the win over Arkansas. 

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High praise

GAINESVILLE -- The Old Ball Coach knows a thing or two about quarterbacks, and now South Carolina’s coach is among those impressed with Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy.

“He’s a dang good player,” Steve Spurrier said Wednesday on the SEC teleconference. “His throwing motion is beautiful. Throws a nice, catchable ball. He can move around in the pocket. You’d never think the young man hadn’t played but what two or three games?”

USC travels to Arkansas this weekend -- a team Murphy shredded for 240 yards and three touchdowns last Saturday.

“We’re watching Florida’s offense against Arkansas -- who we play this week,” Spurrier continued. “We’re watching Tyler, and he just throws the ball beautifully. Fundamentally, he’s very sound. … He’s a very good quarterback. …

“He must’ve looked good in practice down there, but he finally got his chance. Sometimes that’s the way it works out. You get your change and make the most of it.”

High praise. 

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