Head coach Billy Donovan held his weekly media conference Monday.
On the injury front it looks like guard Mike Rosario is cleared to play for this Thursday’s road trip to Texas A&M but will be another gametime decision. Apparently, he was cleared to play against LSU but didn’t feel like he could go effectively so he sat out.
Will Yeguete is cleared to play as well with tendinitis in the knee. Donovan did mention that they will do further tests just to rule out anything else going on with the knee as there has been some swelling. Donovan thinks, though, that it is simply normal tendinitis that players deal with all the time.
One player that is definitely out for Thursday’s game is forward Casey Prather who suffered a high ankle sprain against LSU.
“I don’t think it’s a real severe high ankle sprain,” Donovan said. “Those things can take obviously a long time to heal. I think our best guess right now is probably ten to fourteen. We’ll see how he progresses through treatment. But I would say this week he’s definitely out.”
Prather, who also sat out the first five games due to a concussion suffered in practice just before the start of the season, has had a tough season thus far and had just started getting into game shape and producing at a high level.
“I think he was really playing well,” said Donovan. “I really do. I think he started the year with the concussions and it took him a while to get in the flow, and then he’s been playing really good basketball. I thought he played really, really well at Yale. I thought he played very, very well against Georgia. And then I thought, at least in the first half, he was a real bright spot for us. We were having a hard time scoring in the first half against LSU, then he really kind of gave us a spark to close out the half right before he got hurt.”
Donovan added, “It’s unfortunate, he’s had to deal with some different things throughout the course of his career. But thank God it’s not a severe high ankle sprain where your out from a month to six weeks. We’ll miss him because he’s a versatile player and he’s played well for us so far.”
Center Patric Young echoed Donovan’s comments.
“We come in knowing adversity’s going to hit, guys are going to get hurt,” Young said. “It just sucks that it has to be Casey right now and Mike. We’re going to miss those guys, but we’re going to adjust and we’re going to prepare and go out with what we have.”
Donovan, once again, was asked about the expansion of the SEC with the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri, who they play back to back Thursday and Saturday and had his usual praise for two good basketball programs.
“I said when we expanded, from an academic standpoint, from an athletic standpoint. you’ve got two really, really quality universities, quality programs,” said Donovan.
“Last year, Missouri was a team that was ranked in the top five the entire time. They’ve had great, great basketball tradition there for a long, long time. I think the same thing could be said about Texas A&M. We played them last year and they were a ranked team. Chris Middleton, when we played them, was dealing with some knee issues so he was kind of in and out. I think both of those programs, at least from a basketball perspective, bring great value to our league.”
Great value and Donovan gets to see them back to back with only a two day turnaround. On the subject of having to play the two with only a day between them Donovan was fairly nonchalant.
“I think that we’re all, with the tv contract, are all dealing with Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday games,” according to Donovan. “That’s kind of part of the understanding so to speak. We’ve had to do this before, we did it last year quite a bit, and the year before that. So you just really go one game at a time.”
“Right now our full, undivided attention is going to be on Texas A&M, and when that game ends we’ve got a short period of time to get our focus on to Missouri and get ready to play them. But everybody in our league has to deal with that and that’s just kind of the way it is.”
When the Gators take on Texas A&M on Thursday in College Station, Texas, they will be facing a guy that scored 40 points on Kentucky in Rupp Arena on Saturday. Guard Elston Turner, who’s previous high scoring game was 26, hit for forty points on 14-19 shooting and 6-10 from three point range. Donovan had praise for Turner.
“He’s a really good player, he scored twenty against us last year,” said Donovan. “He can do it in a lot of different ways.”
He added, “The thing that was impressive to me, is less than half of his number of his shots didn’t even equal the amount of points he scored. He scored 40 points on 19 shots. To me that’s the sign of a very, very efficient offensive player.”
Despite Turner scoring forty against Kentucky and A&M upsetting Kentucky at Lexington, Donovan doesn’t see anything different to prepare for as all league games, in his opinion, are tough and require maximum focus.
“I think it’s league, I don’t think that really has anything to do with anything,” according to Donovan. “I think our guys understand in this league that regardless of who you’re playing against home or on the road it’s always going to be a challenge. Certainly, I think anytime you win a game on the road in this league or any league for that matter it’s always a positive.”
He spoke well of the Texas A&M team as well who is coming into the game 12-3 and 2-0 in the SEC and are legitimate challengers for the SEC title in their first season in the conference.
“(The Aggies are) a team that’s playing very, very good basketball. A team that’s had some really good, quality wins. Again, I think going on the road there Thursday will be, without question, a great challenge.”
“I think our guys understand each and every game, when we play and whoever we play, you’re always going to be in difficult battles and challenges because I think league play just in general is just that difficult.”
Against LSU, with Mike Rosario sitting out, freshman Dillon Graham got into the rotation during the game, his first significant action besides mop-up time this season. Donovan said that it isn’t an indication that he’s the “next” one off the bench. He mentioned that it was purely situational and could change depending on the individual match-ups in each game.
“I think playing Dillon, the one thing I respect about Dillon is his ability to pass the ball,” Donovan said. “I think, for him, against a team like LSU at home that was creating about 12 steals a game forcing 19 turnovers, with Rosario being out I just felt like in that game in terms of a handling and passing standpoint we needed some of that. But it could be totally different against A&M. It’s not necessarily him, it could be Braxton, it could be DeVon Walker. It depends as we get deeper into A&M to figure those things out.”
Speaking of the freshman, Donovan brought in a top ten ranked class this season and, as top rated players tend to be, they are all itching to get meaningful playing time. The message from Patric Young? Patience and prepare.
“Will, I , the guys in my class have been in their ear a lot telling them ‘be ready’ because your opportunity is right around the corner,” Young said. “Guys are getting hurt, you just got to be ready. Just don’t get discouraged. We all went through the time where we weren’t playing as much our freshman year. Just be ready, your time’s coming.”
Despite these highly rated freshman being eager to play, there are no issues with guys pouting and not playing hard in practice.
“Those guys (the freshman class), the one thing you could never say is these guys don’t work hard, they bring it every day in practice, they never complain,” according to Young. “So I’m really excited about that for their future. Hopefully they’ll be able to keep the winning going here when it’s their time.”
Before Dillon Graham got into the rotation against LSU, Michael Frazier had been the lone freshman to get meaningful minutes this season outside of mop-up duty. He’s a great shooter but has been a pleasant surprise crashing the boards.
“Mike Frazier has proved to be a better rebounder than maybe anybody anticipated,” Donovan said. “Same thing could be said for Brad Beal a year ago. I didn’t know how Brad would be able to come in and rebound the ball in comparison to what Chandler Parsons did the year before. But Frazier has proven when he goes to the small forward spot he’s a good rebounder. He had seven rebounds in the game against LSU so that’s been something that’s helped us.
And with Prather down for a couple of weeks, Frazier’s role will be expanded as he fills the role that Prather played.
“We’re going to need him to come provide energy, defense, good decisions, just be able to run our offense the same,” Young said. “Not tell him to be as athletic and do the things that Casey does but it’s to go out there and play within himself and just do whatever coach Donovan has asked him to do.”
If he’s able to do that, the Gators have a good shot to get out of College Station with a victory.
Thursday’s game from Reed Arena in College Station will tip off at 7 pm eastern and will be broadcast on ESPN2.