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Wilbekin apologizes for second suspension

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Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 3:46 am

JACKSONVILLE — Billy Donovan stepped into the media room with Scottie Wilbekin not far behind.

The other Gators available to speak — Michael Frazier II, Casey Prather and Patric Young — had already finished their interviews in the hallway. They made their way to the bus.

Not Wilbekin, though.

The senior point guard dragged his feet as he took the seat next to Donovan in front of the cameras.

He inhaled through his nose and exhaled through his mouth as if he was back on the court, waiting for the whistle to shoot a free throw.

But the game was over. He scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting and recorded a team-high seven assists and three steals in 34 minutes of work, another team-high.

Now came the hard part: an apology for his actions.

“I just wanted to start out by saying, I apologize for my actions over the summer and I apologize to the fans,” Wilbekin announced.

“I already apologized to my teammates when it happened and I’m just glad to put that stuff behind me.”

For the second time in a calendar year, Wilbekin was forced to start his season after the rest of his teammates because of off-the-court issues.

As a junior, he missed Florida’s first three games of the year by being suspended for violating team rules.

A second similar incident occurred prior to this season, which cost Wilbekin the first five games of the season.

This time is different, Wilbekin said. He is not a kid anymore.

“I just learned the value of things and, in particular, just what an opportunity it is to play here at Florida,” Wilbekin said. “I think I’ve just matured and just grown up a little bit.”

Donovan, who said this would be Wilbekin’s last chance with the team, added he does not think there will be another rule-breaking incident.

To Donovan, Wilbekin is a changed man with changed priorities but still the same skills on the court.

The offense recorded its best assist-turnover ratio of the season Monday night against Jacksonville, recording 19 assists and only nine turnovers.

Not only did Wilbekin record the most assists by a Gator in a single game so far this season, but he also turned the ball over just twice.

Frazier said he could see Wilbekin’s newfound maturity in the locker room and on the court during the game.

“He was hyped up to play tonight, but I think he did a great job of controlling his emotions and settling down and playing the game,” Frazier said. “He played great tonight.”

Polar opposite of the young, quiet Kasey Hill, who started in place of the suspended senior point guard until suffering a high left ankle sprain, Wilbekin did not shy away from being vocal with his teammates.

He barked out plays, called for the ball and ran the Gators most efficient offense of the year.

“I felt very comfortable knowing that our experienced point guard is out there,” Young said. “No knock on Kasey Hill, but he’s only played about 3-4 college games. Scottie’s played over a 100 in his career.”

Donovan would not say if he would cut Wilbekin from the team if he messed up again, but he added it would be his last chance.

Follow Jonathan Czupryn on Twitter @jczupryn.

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