Florida has had a run of bad luck with injuries during the 2012-13 season.
Fortunately, none have been too severe. But many have occurred during practice. Florida junior forward Casey Prather suffered a pair of concussions in practice, one coming as a result of an elbow from teammate Patric Young. Scottie Wilbekin broke his finger on his shooting hand in practice leading up to the Arizona but has played through it.
Junior forward Erik Murphy first injured his rib during UF’s game against Air Force on Dec. 29, but aggravated it in practice. It’s unclear if his rib was already broken and he tried to practice through it. Florida coach Billy Donovan said Will Yeguete’s knee tendinitis has been an ongoing issue, perhaps a result of compensating for the broken foot he suffered at the end of last season.
Donovan is aware of the banged-up state of his team and the grind of an expanded 18-game Southeastern Conference schedule going forward. But he also doesn’t want to dial back practice intensity too much.
“We’ve got to get healthy, but we’ve also got to get better,” Donovan said.
Former Gator guard Erving Walker said during last year’s Elite Eight run that Donovan was “obsessed” with hard practices. But it’s hard to argue with the results. In his 17th season, Donovan has led the Gators to two national titles, three Final Fours and 12 NCAA Tournament appearances.
Donovan said he’ll consult with trainer Dave “Duke” Werner and strength coach Preston Greene to come up with practice plans in order to help Murphy and Yeguete work back from injuries. Murphy is wearing a protective pad under his broken rib, while Donovan said Yeguete’s knee is being monitored.
“I’m concerned,” Donovan said. “Just the travel in itself, just if you want to look at the travel and the amount of miles in 12 games leading up to (Georgia) has been a lot. You try to as best you can try to incorporate practice around how you get the most out of your guys but also not put them in a situation where they are worse off than when they came in.”
— Donovan offered interesting insight into how junior walk-on guard Jacob Kurtz worked his way onto the basketball team. “Two years ago, he sat upstairs and watched practice every single day in the balcony, just wanted to watch, a student, and then he kind of started to help out as a manger just doing stuff every day, never bothered anybody, never complained,” Donovan said. After doing off jobs like laundry, Kurtz, a former honorable mention All-Seminole County basketball player at Hagerty High in Oviedo, asked if he could help out on the court. Kurtz scored 5 points in the closing minutes of UF’s 77-44 win over Georgia, and has been valuable in practice with Yeguete and Murphy banged up. “I give him a tremendous amount of credit because he’s a very, very bright kid but he’s also very driven and he goes about it in a very respectful way,” Donovan said. “And when you are around someone like that, you want to go out of your way to try to help him realize different things that he’d like to accomplish in his life.”
— Junior center Patric Young has posted four double-doubles this season, but over his last two games, Young has finished with just 3 rebounds against Yale and 5 rebounds against Georgia. Donovan said Young needs to spin off contact and chase more balls off the backboard when bodies are on him. “Patric, because of his size, people are always going to keep a body on him, and I think the extra effort and second effort when he gets hit going to the offensive glass, he’s got to be able to make that effort spinning off a guy in trying to get at least to the same level as the guy that’s blocking him,” Donovan said. Young is averaging 6.3 rebounds per game. “We definitely need Patric to try to chase some more balls on the glass, and when he does that, he’s a terrific rebounder,” Donovan said. “But it’s also hard for him to rebound a lot of times when he’s in the lane like he is and so many people have got bodies on him. It’s a difficult and challenging proposition for him to go chase those kind of balls, but we need him to do that.”