Florida's no-point guard offensive experimentation lasted one game. When the Gators take the floor Monday night in Jacksonville, senior Scottie Wilbekin will again be a part of the team after serving a suspension that dates back to the offseason.
"He's done everything," UF coach Billy Donovan said. "I'm really proud of him. As I have mentioned before, he has really stayed on course since last spring."
Wilbekin was issued an "indefinite" suspension from the team in June for a violation of team rules. During the summer, Wilbekin was not allowed at team facilities or in offseason workouts. The punishment came after Wilbekin was suspended for the same violation for the first three games of the 2012-2013 season.
When the Gators opened camp in early October, Wilbekin was partially reinstated. He was allowed to practice with the team but had to serve an indefinite suspension in terms of games. He was forced to sit out one exhibition game and five regular season games. Like Dorian Finney-Smith, who was suspended for the exhibition game and two regular season contests, Wilbekin was not allowed to attend any of the games.
"He's grown up in a lot of ways. I think that he obviously made some poor choices last year and you would hope that situation would've been an eye opener for him with his level of accountability and responsibility to himself and to his team," Donovan said. "For whatever reason, that experience, those first three games last year, did not register with him at all at the level I wanted it to. I think with the situation we put him in the spring as it related to him having to work his way back on the team, not doing anything Summer B or Summer A with our team, going through the whole entire conditioning in the months of August and September away from our team, slowly getting him back. The biggest thing I've noticed is a total change in his attitude."
Donovan said he offered Wilbekin an opportunity to transfer last season, but the Gainesville native declined a fresh start elsewhere.
Florida gets back its best backcourt defender in Wilbekin, a senior leader and a player who has reportedly taken his offensive game to another level. ESPN's Jeff Goodman reported Wilbekin was the best player on the floor for the Gators when he played in a closed scrimmage against Georgia Tech before the season.
Starting 29 games for Florida last season, Wilbekin averaged 9.1 points per game and nearly five assists per game. He recorded 53 steals.
And that was before a suspension that Donovan says has done wonders for his game. It comes just at the right time for the Gators, who lost freshman point guard Kasey Hill to a high ankle sprain Monday against Southern. The Gators played five different players at point guard throughout Thursday's win against Middle Tennessee State.
"I don't know right now if he'll start, but no question he's going to play normal minutes, normal availability," Donovan said regarding Wilbekin. "He's all caught up in terms of what we're doing. I've really designated him these first five games a lot on the scout team, utilizing him to get our team prepared for whoever we're playing against, so he knows what we're doing. He's a senior, a bright kid. I think he's anxious and excited to be back playing."
Hill is no longer wearing a boot on his left foot during rehab activities. He is expected out for one month.
The Gators' other ongoing suspension remains grim. Donovan said he doesn't have "any hope" of center Damontre Harris returning to the team. Harris has not practiced with the Gators since Nov. 1 and is currently not a part of the team.
"He's been gone for 25 days. I don't have any hope he's going to come back," Donovan said. "It's not hard things, I think going to school, being on time, if you have an appointment, show up, be able to answer your phone, take responsibility, do what you are supposed to do. When you don't do those things on a consistent basis, at some point, as much as he want to help him, to grow and move in a positive direction at some point there has got to be an accountability on where is he at in terms of making a commitment to do the things he would like to do."