It was hard for Florida coach Billy Donovan to envision a frontcourt this thin when the season started last October.
But an injury to Will Yeguete and the departure of redshirt sophomore Cody Larson leaves UF currently with 6-foot-6 forward Casey Prather as his biggest player off the bench heading into Tuesday night’s matchup with Tennessee.
The Gators were in the mix on a number of frontcourt players last spring, including UNLV freshman forward Anthony Bennett, who with Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart is contending for national freshman of the year honors. But Bennett opted to sign with UNLV over Florida and Kentucky because he could start right away. At Florida, Bennett would have likely come off the bench behind established starters Patric Young and Erik Murphy.
Donovan said he felt comfortable going into the spring with five frontcourt players — Young, Murphy, Yeguete, Larson and Prather. But when Larson, who had been dealing with issues over the summer, decided to leave the Gators for good at the end of October, it left UF in a bind.
“You can’t forecast a guy deciding not to play,” Donovan said. “You can’t forecast Will Yeguete going down with a knee injury. So that number goes from four to three. It makes it challenging, but it’s something you have to deal with.”
Yeguete underwent surgery on his knee to remove bone chips on Feb. 8 and could be back as soon as Saturday against Alabama. But instead of fortifying his frontcourt for 2012-13 over the spring, Donovan opted to bring in a pair of transfers — Virginia Tech forward Dorian Finney-Smith and South Carolina center Damontre Harris. Both will be eligible to play starting in the 2013-14 season. The two transfers put UF over the scholarship limit before Larson elected to give up his scholarship to become walk-on. Larson, who is still enrolled in classes at UF, eventually left the team.
Donovan had recruited both Finney-Smith and Harris in high school.
“For us to go get another frontcourt player when you’ve got five there to start the year, I’m not sure we were going to do that.,” Donovan said. “I’m not sure I’m just going to go out and sign a frontcourt player unless it’s someone we really recruited and know.”
– ESPN college analyst Dick Vitale will be hosting a charity auction for the V Foundation on Tuesday at noon on outbid (www.outbid.com). Fans can join the auction online and chat in real time with Vitale and bid for 2013 Final Four tickets. A full list of auction items can be found here.