GAINESVILLE — Between injuries, illnesses and suspensions, Florida coach Billy Donovan doesn’t know what to make of his team right now.
Well, he does have one thought.
“We’re not even remotely close to being No. 10 in the country,” Donovan said.
The ranked Gators already are dealing with adversity — and they’re still more than four months away from March Madness. The program that has come up short in a regional final each of the past three years could have nearly as many scholarship players sidelined as suited up when the season opens Friday against North Florida.
“When you looked on paper at the guys that were supposed to be on our team, we looked like a very optimistic, promising team,” Donovan said. “Right now, we’re not a very good team. ... We’re not the same team. If everybody looked at it on paper before the season started, each guy is healthy, each guy is here, what our team would look like. Our team is not that team on paper.”
Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin and big men Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris are suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, and guard Michael Frazier II won’t play while he recovers from mononucleosis. Throw in highly touted recruit Chris Walker, who is still trying to get his test scores up so he can enroll in January, and the Gators will be down an entire five-man rotation.
Making Donovan’s team even thinner, forward Will Yeguete (knee surgery) and guard Eli Carter (broken leg) are still recovering from injuries and will play limited minutes early on.
“It’s part of the game,” sophomore guard DeVon Walker said. “Unfortunately, it did happen, but it’s not going to hold us back from trying to win games. It’s not going to last the whole season.”