Florida will be without starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin in its season opener against Georgetown tonight. The team suspended the junior indefinitely on Thursday for undisclosed reasons.
After "finding out some information on some things," coach Billy Donovan informed Wilbekin of his suspension minutes before the team departed to the USS Bataan in Jacksonville at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday.
Wilbekin did not travel with the team to Naval Station Mayport. Wilbekin did not earn the suspension because of a criminal act or NCAA violation, Donovan said.
"Right now, I felt like he didn’t need to be here on this trip," Donovan said. "None of us are immune from making mistakes and making poor choices and doing things. Sometimes, a decision a person makes doesn’t necessarily say who the person is all the way around. Scottie is a good person with a good heart who’s got to be responsible and accountable and committed. He’s got to grow and mature."
Wilbekin was expected to begin the season as No. 10 Florida’s starting point guard, taking the reins from UF all-time assists leader Erving Walker.
The 6-foot-2 Wilbekin averaged 2.5 points and 1.6 assists per contest as Florida’s backup point guard the past two seasons.
The loss of Wilbekin leaves the Gators with only nine scholarship players — five returners and four freshmen — heading into tonight’s season-opening matchup at 9 p.m. against Georgetown.
Florida will also be without junior forward Casey Prather. During Monday’s practice, Prather suffered his second concussion in a span of nine days.
Sophomore forward Cody Larson quit the team on Oct. 26, leaving the Gators thin in the frontcourt.
Senior shooting guard Kenny Boynton will run the point against the Hoyas. Boynton has played point guard sparingly during the past three seasons.
Redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario and freshman point guard Braxton Ogbueze are expected to back up Boynton.
Junior Will Yeguete will likely start at small forward, while Rosario or freshman Michael Frazier II will start at shooting guard, Donovan said.
Wilbekin’s suspension gives Florida’s freshmen — Frazier, Ogbueze, guard Dillon Graham and forward DeVon Walker — the opportunity to log extended minutes off the bench.
In UF’s exhibition rout of Nebraksa-Kearney on Nov. 1, Frazier flourished, scoring a team-high 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting.
Ogbueze scored 15 points, Graham recorded 12 points and three assists, and Walker tallied two points on 1-for-5 shooting.
With Yeguete, power forward Erik Murphy and center Patric Young starting, Florida matches up well against Georgetown’s height. Four of the Hoyas’ five starters are at least 6 feet 8 inches.
Sophomore forward Otto Porter, who averaged 9.7 points and a team-best 6.8 rebounds per game last season, is Georgetown’s most dynamic talent.
"We’re going to do the best we can to prepare for a guy like that and take him out of his comfort zone," Young said.
The Gators are tasked with trying to shut down Porter and the Hoyas without Wilbekin, one of their best defenders.
"He’s very, very remorseful," Donovan said. "(He) feels very, very bad. ... Scottie will learn from this, grow from this and be better from it."