GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Scottie Wilbekin has been reinstated to the Florida basketball team and will be with the 16th-ranked Gators (4-1) when they face Jacksonville (2-3) on the road Monday night.
UF coach Billy Donovan announced Wilbekin’s return Sunday. The senior point guard and team’s best on-ball defender was suspended for violating team rules in June. It was Wilbekin’s second such suspension in seven months.
“He’s back on the team and available to play,” Donovan said Sunday, adding that Wilbekin’s place in the lineup would be a game-day decision. “He’s done everything I’ve asked of him since basically last spring. And like I’ve been saying, I think he’s made some good strides and growth as a player and person.”
Meanwhile, the status of suspended center/forward Damontre Harris, the 6-foot-10 transfer from South Carolina, remains unchanged. Harris has not practiced with the team in several weeks.
After a summer of off-court punishment, Donovan allowed Wilbekin to join the team for the start of practice Oct. 11. He’d worked exclusively with the scout team while missing the first six games (one exhibition, five regular-season).
On Saturday, Wilbekin took the ball with the regulars and lived up to his billing as the team’s best all-around player. He’ll instantly fill the void left by the loss of freshman point guard Kasey Hill, who was averaging 11.1 points and 4.2 assists when he suffered a high ankle sprain in last Monday’s home win against Southern. Hill could be out several more weeks, but is rehabbing daily in hopes of accelerating his recovery.
Wilbekin was suspended for the first three games of the 2012-13 season. Upon his return, the 6-2, 180-pounder started 29 games, averaged 9.1 points on 45.3-percent shooting and nearly five assists per game, all the while guarding the opponent’s best perimeter player.
The five weeks since practice began have been about proving to Donovan he deserved another chance.
“He made a commitment and investment to get back on the team," Donovan said.
Wilbekin is the second UF player to be reinstated to the team since the season started. After sitting out the first two regular-season games, forward Dorian Finney-Smith, the transfer from Virginia Tech, made his debut against Arkansas-Little Rock and is averaging 13 points and 7.3 rebounds in three games.
As for Harris, the third of UF’s preseason suspended players, Donovan had no timetable regarding his reinstatement. Two seasons ago at South Carolina, Harris averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and was second in the Southeastern Conference in blocked shots at 2.3 per game.
Said Donovan: “Based on the decisions and choices he’s made, he’s still not here.”