GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Toward the end of Thursday’s shoot-around, Billy Donovan called his players into a huddle. The Florida coach wasn’t particularly pleased with a couple of the things he was seeing and took the moment to remind his team about the dogfight he expected tonight against a tough Middle Tennessee State squad.
Back to work they went.
The coach walked to the sidelines and assumed his pose. About six feet to Donovan’s right -- on the bench, left leg propped on a chair, crutches by his side -- sat freshman point guard Kasey Hill. He turned in Hill’s direction.
“This is all your fault,” Donovan said.
The two smiled.
Hill was playing very well (10.3 points, 4.2 assists, 2.2 steals) through three games. He was executing offense, dictating the uptempo pace Donovan craves and taking care of the ball (just four turnovers total).
Then came that drive in transition through the teeth of the Southern defense Monday night. Hill stepped on a defender’s foot in traffic, the ankle rolled, Hill screamed and the Gators are expected to be without their gifted rookie playmaker for the next few weeks; maybe as long as a month.
“It was the worst pain I’d ever had spraining my ankle -- and I’ve been playing basketball a long time,” Hill said while watching the UF shoot-around. “I was thinking it was really, really bad.”
It could have been really, really worse. X-rays, however, were negative. Hill went right from the O’Connell Center to the training room at the team's hoops complex that night and commenced icing the injury. The swelling was down considerably the very next morning.
“They’ve got a good grasp on how to treat it and they’re doing that right now,” Donovan said.
UF trainer David “Duke” Werner praised Hill’s commitment and diligence to the rehab process. Werner said Hill has reported for treatment each morning, then gone to class and returned for more treatment; gone to lunch, then back for treatment; gone to class, back for treatment while his teammates practiced.
"I want to be back as soon as I can," he said.
Hill even got an upper-body lift in with strength coach Preston Greene.
“He’s been great,” Werner said.
The health staff knows it has to be careful with Hill. His greatest assets are speed, acceleration and quickness. No need to get him out on the court until the ankle can support the explosiveness that makes Hill the player he is.
“The one thing you don’t want to do is have him come back where he’s not fully healed or he’s hobbled and he can’t play to his strengths,” Donovan said. “His game is a game that’s played in the open floor with speed, going to the rim and finishing. If we’ve got him out there and he’s not fully healed and can’t explode like he once did, then that’s not going to help him as a player.”
Hill and Werner, together, will is do everything they can to accelerate the process.
Much can happen in a month. Some bodies heal faster than others.
“And if he gets back before a month, the trainer looks great,” Donovan said.
The Gators will look better, too.