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December 2, 2013

Lack of depth stretching Wilbekin

Billy Donovan is renowned for his ability to recruit and develop backcourt players, which is why the situation he finds his team in right now is so unique. The Gators are battling a lack of depth at guard and it has Donovan reaching for desperate measures.

Florida is playing with six healthy scholarship players as it heads into a three-game stretch against the No. 13, 21 and 2 teams in the country. Nowhere is that more apparent than the backcourt. The test gets off to a quick start Monday night at 7 against Connecticut.

"We're going against maybe one of the premier backcourts in the country, so it's going to be a great challenge for our team and in particular our backcourt in this game," Donovan said.

The Huskies start a three-guard lineup led by junior Ryan Boatright, senior Shabazz Napier and sophomore Omar Calhoun. All are averaging at least 9.4 points per game, highlighted by Napier who is off to a hot start in his final year of college basketball.

Napier is averaging 15 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game as UConn has gotten off to a 7-0 start.

"Without question one of the elite point guards in the country," Donovan said of Napier. "But it's not just him. This is a little bit different for us. They have three guys they can put the ball in those guys' hands and those guys are really able to make plays. They put a lot of pressure on your defense."

Donovan is uncomfortable with the amount the Gators have had to lean on senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin in his two games back, but he doesn't have much of a choice at the moment.

Wilbekin has played 72 minutes in two games, only two assists behind the team leader despite playing five less games. Donovan said he is being asked for too much playing time and also has the ball in his hands more than he should.

Freshman point guard Kasey Hill remains out with a high ankle sprain but is no longer wearing a walking boot and should be 2-3 weeks away from returning to game action. Sophomore DeVon Walker did not practice Saturday after missing Friday's game with a foot sprain. Donovan said he is "not planning" on being able to use Walker against UConn.

That has left the Gators searching for bodies, most prominently walk-on Jacob Kurtz to eat minutes. Kurtz is averaging 19.7 minutes per game. Junior Eli Carter continues to struggle to recover from the broken leg he suffered last season. He has not developed strength in his ankle or leg as expected and cannot play after the Memphis game Dec. 10 if he intends to receive a medical redshirt.

"That's probably something that's going to happen. We'll go for that," Donovan said of sitting Carter after the cutoff date. "He's got strength issues. Structurally he's got some problems he's going to have to work though, for however long it takes him to get that back. But it's an unfortunate situation. He's a great kid. I respect him an awful lot, just with the way he's handled himself. He's just trying to do whatever he can do. But like I said before, we're not going to waste a year just so he can be a guy who can spot somebody just to get a breather. I think he's done too much in his career. We owe it to him to get him fully healed and ready to play."

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