GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For the second year in a row, Florida is losing its best interior defender for a significant stretch.
Coach Billy Donovan said Thursday junior forward Will Yeguete will undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies in his right knee and will miss the remainder of the regular season. The hope is that Yeguete will be able to return in time for the SEC tournament.
"He's obviously made a huge impact on our team," Donovan said. "He's a guy that does things for our team that not a lot of guys do. He's a great defender, great rebounder. He gives you a lot of flexibility on the defensive end of the floor of things you can do from pressing to half-court defense to switching to having him guard certain players. That's going to be definitely a loss."
The 6-foot-7 Yeguete, who is UF's second-leading rebounder (6.3 per game) and a key part of the Gators' full-court press, had been dealing with tendinitis in his right knee for several weeks. Yeguete further injured his knee during the Gators' 80-69 loss at Arkansas on Tuesday.
Yeguete underwent an MRI on Wednesday and surgery is scheduled for Friday. The second-ranked Gators (18-3, 8-1 SEC) play host to Mississippi State (7-14, 2-7) on Saturday.
Without Yeguete, the Gators' options in the front court are limited. Junior forward Casey Prather (5.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg) is battling an ankle injury and Donovan said he may have to turn to freshmen Michael Frazier or DeVon Walker. The 6-4 Frazier is averaging 5.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 18.7 minutes per game. He also is shooting 46.2 percent from 3-point range.
The 6-6 Walker is only averaging 4.4 minutes per game and has made just 2-of-17 shots in his limited playing time.
"We're going to have to move around some different pieces here," Donovan said. "We're going to have to look at playing four guards. We're going to look at moving Frazier to a power forward spot some. We're going to have to look at different lineups with Walker on the floor as well. There's just different things that we have to look at.
"It's a little bit of a different situation than it was last year for our team because last year's team had an enormous amount of depth in the backcourt. We also had enough depth in the frontcourt to absorb Will's injury last year. Cody Larson was still here. Patric [Young] was here. [Erik] Murphy was here, and Casey was here. It really wasn't as impactful as it is right now for our team just because there is a lack of depth there."
Yeguete missed the final nine games of last season after suffering a broken left foot. The Gators lost four of their next five games without him, but did rebound and reach the Elite Eight before losing to Louisville.
The Gators were able to deal with Yeguete's absence because of better depth in the front court, as well as the presence of NBA lottery pick Brad Beal, who averaged 15.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament.