GAINESVILLE, Fla. - No. 10 Florida probably will be playing with walk-ons early in the season.
Coach Billy Donovan announced the suspension of big men Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris on Thursday, meaning the Gators will be down at least four guys to start the season.
Donovan already suspended point guard Scottie Wilbekin indefinitely, and guard Michael Frazier II likely will miss at least two games because of mononucleosis.
Making Florida even thinner, forward Will Yeguete (knee surgery) and guard Eli Carter (broken leg) are still recovering from injuries and likely will play limited minutes early on.
"We just try to go with the guys that we know are going to be available, going to be there to play," Donovan said. "We've had a lot of little things, health issues."
Only three scholarship players - center Patric Young and guards DeVon Walker and Kasey Hill - have been available every day since practice began. Forward Casey Prather (groin/hamstring) and guard Dillon Graham (ankle) missed time. So did Finney-Smith (ankle) and Harris (ankle).
Finney-Smith, Harris and Wilbekin are being punished for an undisclosed violation of team rules. They won't play in Friday's exhibition game against Florida Southern or in the Nov. 8 season opener against North Florida.
Finney-Smith, a 6-foot-8 sophomore from Portsmouth, Va., averaged 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds at Virginia Tech in 2011-12. Harris, a 6-10 junior from Fayetteville, N.C., averaged 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in two seasons at South Carolina. Both sat out last year under NCAA transfer rules. Wilbekin, who also was suspended to begin last season, averaged 9.1 points and 5.0 assists as a junior.
Donovan gave no timetable for their return, meaning they also could be spectators when the Gators play at No. 20 Wisconsin on Nov. 12.
"They're practicing," Donovan said. "They will do that right now. We'll make a decision. There's some things that they need to do as well. Hopefully, they will do it and we'll see how that translates going forward."
Without them, walk-ons Jacob Kurtz and Donovan's son, Billy Donovan, could see plenty of playing time.
"It's part of the game," Walker said. "It happens. Unfortunately it did happen, but it's not going to hold us back from trying to win games. It's not going to last the whole season."
No, but it could hamper Florida's early season success.
"Our team needs to keep moving forward," Donovan said. "Regardless of what happens tomorrow night or when we open up next week, the season is still coming. So we're behind on some things in my opinion as a team. The one area we're behind on is on defense; we're not nearly as good as we were a year ago. We're way behind there.
"We can't even play 5-on-5. When you go into practice and you've got eight guys, you've got to figure out, 'OK, how do we get better? How do we improve? How do we maximize the day to the best of our ability to get better?'
Donovan laughed when asked about his team's spot in the Top 25.
"I would say we're not even remotely close to being No. 10 in the country right now," he said.
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