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Class Dismissed

 

 

GAINESVILLE -- No. 1 Florida is chasing perfection -- and history -- Saturday at noon against No. 25 Kentucky, but a pregame ceremony honoring its decorated senior class will serve as an appropriate appetizer on an emotionally charged afternoon.

The Gators, winners of a school-record 23 straight, will pay homage to a special (and rare) group of four seniors -- Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather, Will Yeguete and Patric Young -- who have played over 500 games together and share the discernible scars from three consecutive Elite Eight exits.  

It’s a weathered, warted but invested quartet, discovering enviable (and possibly record) successes despite navigating through cobblestone-esque roads.

Each player’s story is different, and while chemistry and experience are cliché characterizations of UF’s four seniors, overcoming adversity is what seems to truly define them.

Four years ago, a hotshot prospect (Young), a kid (Wilbekin), a project (Yeguete) and a wide-eyed winger (Prather) came together. On Saturday, they stand as the greatest senior class in UF’s history.

It wasn’t always pretty, and was rarely easy, but Florida’s quartet -- forged by toughness, patience and poise -- is exactly how the whole can be better than the sum of its parts.

The seniors, none stud nor slouch, have combined for three Southeastern Conference titles, nine NCAA Tournament wins and stand just a single victory away from becoming the first team in league history to go 18-0 in conference play.

Florida’s special class is the perfect storm of madness meets good fortune. Young is a former McDonald’s All-American who gradually found consistency, but never developed fast enough to see his lottery projection fulfilled. Wilbekin is a former local high school product thrust into adulthood too soon, yet newfound maturity (via multiple suspensions) saw him transform into UF’s best and most indispensable player.

Prather is a dynamic slasher who wanted to be a prolific shooter, but wasn’t. After flirting with transferring, he decided to stay in Gainesville and blossomed into the team’s top scorer.

Finally, Yeguete is and has always been the heart and soul of the group. The glue-guy who’s body has been undone by multiple injuries, the fauxhawked forward remains a key-cog in UF’s championship run as its energy, heartbeat and intangible force.

Together, the four seniors have accomplished great things, and while they’re hardly ready to commemorate their careers, each player was able to reflect on their journey and what tomorrow’s final home game means.

Below is a compilation of quotes, including a nugget from coach Billy Donovan.

DONOVAN

On how the group deserves to be remembered: 

"I think first and foremost great kids, great people, people of substance, of character. None of them are perfect. They've all made mistakes. They've all been through their ups and downs, but I think at the heart of who they are, they're really great kids. The other think the other thing that I would say is that this institution means an enormous amount to them personally. Them putting on a Florida uniform, them playing here, has meant a lot to them and something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. And then I think the other part of it is their teammates have been equally important to them as the institution has been. I think they're kids that worked really, really hard and tried each and every day to do the best that they can." 

YEGUETE

On how the seniors will be remembered:

“I think we all have our own personal story. I think we all went through a couple things in our four years here. Me and my injury. Casey wasn't playing a lot first few years and now he's having a great year. Pat kind of being up and down a little bit. Scottie being in trouble. I think guys are just staying in the moment, just staying with the process. We fought through a lot of adversity we had and just staying connected. That's pretty much how we'll be remembered.”

On the group’s special bond:  

"We knew how close we are and how much we could accomplish as a group. We had a lot of fun here, especially with this group this year, and we're just excited for what's next and we know there's more out there for us." 

WILBEKIN 

On tomorrow’s atmosphere:

“Yeah, I’ve thought about it quite a bit. It definitely brings back some memories of just how long I’ve been here. But I just want to end it the right way, just playing hard and giving it my all for this last home game." 

On not relishing the moment until it’s over:

“That’s how I want it to be. Obviously I want to make the most out of it, but I can’t let whatever moment it is, and the rest of the guys can’t let whatever moment it is be bigger than the big game we have to play. That’s what we’ve been trying to focus on.”

YOUNG

On the class’ accomplishments:

"Hopefully, the greatest thing hasn't come yet. But as of now, this class has gone through a lot, from guys thinking about transferring to staying in school, to not playing games with injuries, all those things, this team, this senior class, has persevered, stuck together and won." 

On his attitude this season:

“I knew this was my last chance to do something great here. I just really wanted to give it my best shot by putting in the work during the offseason. I’ve been focused on doing whatever I can to be more connected to my teammates, being a better teammate and trying to improve myself mentally for the ups and downs that come during the season and focus in on working harder each day.”

PRATHER 

On the quartet’s relationship:

“We’re so close. Even from the first day we met we just clicked. I don’t know what it was about it, but we clicked instantly. Since then we’ve just improved our relationship on and off the court.”

On his bond with Donovan:

“It’s grown quite a bit because he knows some of the obstacles I came through from earlier experiences in high school. He’s been a great guy and great mentor who has prepared me for the games and for the future.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Comments

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#1

For Now but disappointment is right around the corner, its a gator thang.


I SAY IT'S GREAT TO BE AN 18-0 SEC CHAMPION #1 FLORIDA GATOR !!!

18-0 BABY! Let's hear it for the ROWDY REPTILES!!

No undefeated season again though, oh well probably will never happen, its a gatah thang

You mean like the canes will never win a basketball title? Talking trash when you have no right to, it's a cane thang!

#1 18-0 SEC CHAMPS FLORIDA GATORS ... DOWN COME THE NETS ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfqkFAzUAS8

No undefeated season in any major sport, oh well second rate is a gatah thang.

The only thing the "u" owns is an unbelievable streak of mediocrity, with no end in sight. You also own the title of delusional trash talking, so congrats on that!

No undefeated season in any major sport, delusional post and an obsession with trying to compare themselves to their in state big brother Miami, its a gatah thang.

Newsflash, this is GATOR clause. I think it's pretty clear who's delusional here! No one here gives 2 shi@s about the canes! The only reason anyone talks about them is because we have no choice with you obsessed idiots who never leave. Hypocricy, its a cane thang.

We also own a 58 game home win streak, national titles in the state, most appearances in NCGames,oh yea, and uf.

Posted by: #1 in 5 hobbies! gators

That's fantastic but it's 2014.

u sweating out that N.ot I.nvited T.ourney invite cane clUck ?

welcome to the 21st. Century.

No sweating here...we knew it would be a down year. If we pull off the acc tourney then we are in the big dance. You could have at least waited make that comment. I remember yall said the gators were gonna beat the mighty Canes....hahahaha, still laughing at those statments....or the Divll georgia southern home beatdown. Either way , .... still funny....

Congrats to the Gator record setting team. 18- 0 and more to go. This is shaping up to be a very special season indeed.
Now we need to got through the SEC tourney and on to the Dance. March Madness is here.

"mighty" canes?? Wow, the delusions are alive and well! Just curious, what exactly qualifies them as mighty? I mean 10 straight years of 9 wins or less, not even a conference championship game appearance since joining the ACC. That is certainly not the resume of a "mighty" team! You cane fans are hilarious!

No 4 win seasons either gatordummy... no div ll loses either gator dummy. More UNDEFEATED seasons than uf has titles. 3x's as many NC games than UF gatordummy. Plus , WE OWN U!

LOL at jlo....thats only a gator record....58 home win streak, now thats a record. Undefeated undisputed national titles, now thats a record. 6 firstround draft picks, now thats a record. I guess U take what little U can......thats sad!

Gatordumb, Mighty Canes means we have whooped your arss the past 7 of 8 games in football, that seems mighty big to me, pun intended. For recent history, Miami put the arss whoopin on uf in Football 2013, Miami put the arss whoopin on uf in Baseball 2014, any questions, nah didn't think so cornholes.

That is by far the funniest post I've ever read! First of all, congrats on FINALLY beating the gators this year in baseball. You are now 3 and 17 in the last 20 games. Definitely something to be bragging about lol! Good for you for beating us 7 of the last 8, but again beating us doesn't make you world beaters. This year you won a game in which you were thoroughly dominated in every aspect except turnovers, by what turned out to be a team that had their worst year in 25 years. Again congrats, but nothing to be bragging about. This is the part that you cane losers can't seem to grasp. You were mighty 20 YEARS AGO. You are very very very far from being mighty now. You've done absolutely nothing to be proud of for a decade. This is exactly why you guys are the biggest joke in college football. You continue to talk trash as if it's 1990. It's 2014 and you guys are a joke. Wake up you delusional losers!

Georgia southern

LOL GATORDUMB...at least you admit it....we beat u in the peach bowl .... what have the gators done in the last hundred years? 3 measly titles with not 1 undisputed. Ok,ok, we can throw in you bball titles but who really counts bball?

The only fact is that you are a Moron.
Every modern title is undisputed in contrast to your ancient titles which were solely based on subjective polls and some were split between the 2 polls of the day.
That Peach Bowl was in 2004 which is 10 years ago, or a decade for you mental midgets and MDC dropouts.
In the past decade you are nothing and we are great.
Today we are in the middle of March Madness, with another great season you are nowhere. Every big time school in America counts basketball, especially this time of the year.
You don't because you are not big time and because your team sucks.
Go F yourself.

Dang jlo.....did your uncle touch you when you were little? Lot of anger there.

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