Billy Donovan forced to rely on little-used freshman players tonight
With two key reserve players out of the lineup due to injuries, Florida coach Billy Donovan said he'll have no choice but to try and get some valuable minutes out of three inexperienced freshman players when the Gators play at Tennessee tonight.
Junior F Will Yeguete is still out with a knee injury and freshman guard Michael Frazier II is recovering from a concussion suffered Saturday night.
That leave the Gators with their starting lineup, and key sixth-man Casey Prather. Freshmen Braxton Ogbueze, DeVon Walker and Dillon Graham have mostly seen action in mop-up duty, but Donovan said one - or all will need to step up now.
"Well I think the one thing that’s really hard to evaluate is our freshmen,'' Donovan said. "The only thing we have a chance to go on is what they do in practice. They’ve gotten better. They’ve improved. The thing I’ve been most impressed with with our young guys is just their attitude every day. It can be a long year, especially when you’re not getting a chance to play a lot, not in rotations, to keep that enthusiasm and that excitement to try and get better. Those guys have done that. I've been really proud of them for that. But, clearly with our team right now being down to six players that have really absorbed most of the minutes, through foul trouble and fatigue, we're going to have to utilize those guys."
Ogbueze has played 30 minutes this season, Walker has played 37 and Graham has played 29. So how much Donovan will be able to rely on the players - in the extremely hostile environment at Thompson-Boling Arena - remains to be seein.
"There will be an uncertainty and an unknown because these guys have not been in those situations to this point in the heart of games to see how they will respond,'' Donovan siad. "They're going to be thrust into that here in Knoxville tomorrow."
Their teammates said they have faith in the young players.
"They come in each and every day with the same attitude, same focus and disposition about playing,'' Prather said. "They just want to play just as bad as we want to play, and they want to win just as bad as we want to win."