July 2013 could possibly go down as the most puzzling time of Billy Donovan‘s tenure at Florida. While most college basketball teams around the nation have an idea of what they could be working with for next season, Donovan’s plans for his Gators have been put on hold. Coming into the 2013-14 campaign, Donovan has done everything required to get the Gators back into contention for an SEC crown and a Final Four. Despite losing their three leading scorers due to graduation, Donovan has recruited well and filled in the blanks with transfer players. After three straight appearances to the Elite Eight, the Gators are even hungrier for a chance at hanging a banner. To get there, they will need to clear some serious hurdles before thinking about winning it all.
First of all, you’ve got the curious case of Scottie Wilbekin. The rising senior guard has the experience and skill set to be a major factor in any game this season. Due to some disciplinary issues, Wilbekin has been banned from the team and the timetable for his return is unknown. The Gators are also dealing with some issues regarding transfer point guard Eli Carter and incoming freshman Chris Walker. Carter has been fighting to become immediately eligible since he transferred from Rutgers during the Mike Rice abuse scandal. Walker’s recruitment was fogged with academic uncertainties, which continue to haunt him as he tries to qualify at Florida. Donovan has already spoken publicly about the issues with Walker and said he may not be enrolled by the fall semester. And finally, Will Yeguete‘s knee is a big concern for the depth of the Gator frontcourt. Yeguete lead the team in rebounding last season and underwent major knee surgery during the spring.
It has to be extremely frustrating for Donovan to know he has the pieces in place for a successful season, but issues out of his control have stymied him from molding this team into a Final Four contender. The Gators have a lot of promise with their returning players. Patric Young will continue to be the anchor inside. Sophomore guard Michael Frazier is emerging as a player to have a breakout season after helping the U.S. Under-19 team (coached by Donovan) win a gold medal in Prague this summer. Incoming freshman Kasey Hill will be a match-up nightmare when he gets used to the speed of the college game.
Billy Donovan has been placed in an extremely risky lottery that he didn’t buy a ticket for. A lot of things need to swing his way before he can feel more confident about his Gators making some noise this season. They have the potential to be a great team, compete for another SEC crown and go deep in the NCAA Tournament. How these issues shake out will determine how great these Gators can be in 2013-14.