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Friday January 20, 2012Gators Hope for Healthier Patric Young as LSU Visits O'Dome Saturday Night

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- His big body was plopped on a table in the basketball training room, his right ankle getting treatment while his fingers tapped away on tiny video game.


“I feel great,” Florida center Patric Young said. “Just happy to be here.”

A more accurate statement by Young would have been he was happy to have been there, as in taking part in a 2 1/2-hour practice Thursday -- which he did, practically full go -- as the No. 17 Gators (14-4, 2-1) readied for Saturday’s Southeastern Conference showdown against LSU (12-6, 2-2) at the O’Connell Center.


Young, the 6-foot-9, 247-pound enforcer, has been battling a sprained ankle for nearly two weeks. He played just 13 minutes in last weekend’s win at South Carolina, the team’s first road victory this season, and everyone from Coach Billy Donovan down hoped Young could use the club’s bye week to rest, refresh, rehab and be ready to run and ransack the league down the SEC home stretch. 


“He’s better,” Donovan said after Thursday’s practice. “He’ll play against LSU. I just can’t tell you how much.”

Young is not expected to start against the Tigers, but rather give way to 6-7 sophomore Will Yeguete, who was terrific (career-high 14 points and eight rebounds) in stepping in against the Gamecocks at the forward spot, with 6-10 Erik Murphy moving to center. Young's minutes will be determined as much by what Donovan sees from his movement and body language during the morning shoot-around Saturday.


Donovan was encouraged by neither of those things at the shoot-around in Columbia, S.C., which was why Yeguete got the start. Still, Young likely would have logged more minutes had he not picked up two fouls in the first half. He scored four points in the game, making both field-goal attempts. They were easy (and violent) ones, too: a pair of slam-dunks on beautiful penetration lob passes from Erving Walker. 


“When it was hurting the worst, I really couldn’t jump off two feet,” Young said. “But if you saw just those two plays [against South Carolina], you never would have thought I was in pain at all.”


But he was, still is and chances are he will be the rest of the season. That’s something UF trainer Dave “Duke” Werner thinks Young needs to wrap his arms around sooner rather than later. 


“It’s a discomfort that he’s going to need to play through,” Werner said. “Might as well get used to it.”


Young played through it for the better part of his first full practice Thursday -- a pretty physical one, too -- after which he said it was the best he had felt since the ankle first started troubling him earlier this month. At one point in the practice, as he was cutting through the lane on offense, Young stumble and came up limping.  


“It wasn’t bothering me much at all ... until Murphy stepped on my foot,” Young said with a grin. 


That would be forward Erik Murphy, whose right eye was on the receiving end of a Young elbow two weeks ago. The blow required six stitches. 


Murphy just happened to be getting treatment on his leg two tables over from Young when the Gator with with the buff bod and infamous flying bows dared to call him out. 


“What?” Murphy said. “Is he serious?”


He wasn't. Kind of. 


In all seriousness, the Gators will need Young to play hurt against an LSU squad armed with 7-foot, 260-pound center Justin Hamilton, a junior who sat out last season after transferring from Iowa State. Hamilton is averaging 13.3 points and 7.5 rebounds. 


“I wouldn’t say he moves really well or that he’s got really good feet, but offensively, he’s very skilled,” Young said. “I’m actually kind of surprised [LSU is] not playing better. They have all the tools.” 


The Gators need their biggest and best low-post tool (not to mention their leading rebounder) back and zeroed in as soon as possible. In the meantime, Donovan was pleased with the enthusiasm Young displayed for his teammates from the bench at South Carolina. 


“The one thing I admired and respected was how he was involved in the game and involved with our team emotionally in the first half and really helped those guys,” Donovan said. “He was that way the whole entire game, then made some plays in the second half that helped our team.” 


Said Young: “There are different ways you can affect the game, even when you’re not playing. You can be a vocal and encouraging presence for your teammates.” 


All the same, the Gators prefer the Patric Young who is a vicious and discouraging presence for the opponent. 




Louisiana State at No. 17 Florida   

Tip-off: 7 p.m. (O’Connell Center, Gainesville, Fla.) 

Records: Florida 14-4, 2-1; LSU 12-6, 2-2    

TV: FSN (w/Dave Neal and Larry Conley)

Radio: Gator IMG Sports Network (w/Mick Hubert and Mark Wise) -- Click here for affiliates) / Sirius 220/XM 199

Game notes: Florida notes; LSU notes  

Need to know: The game will mark the 100th meeting between the two schools, a series that dates to 1947. LSU leads the series 60-39, but UF is 10-8 under Coach Billy Donovan, with a two-game winning streak. ... The Gators have been off since Saturday night’s 79-65 victory at South Carolina that marked UF’s first road win in five tries this season. The Tigers defeated Auburn 65-58 Tuesday night, after losing two straight in league play at Alabama and Arkansas. ... LSU lost to Coastal Carolina, Northwestern and South Alabama in its first six games, but then put together a seven-game winning streak that included wins at Rutgers (where the Gators lost last month) and an upset of then-No. 10 Marquette. ... All five regular UF starters average in double-figures, led by junior G Kenny Boynton (18.7 ppg, 3.1 apg), who ranks second in the SEC in both scoring and 3-point shooting percentage (45.8). Freshman G Bradley Beal (14.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and senior PG Erving Walker (12.9 ppg, 5 apg) join Boynton to make up the most explosive backcourt in the league. Sophomore Will Yeguete (5.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is expected to start at the forward position for Patric Young (ankle), who will play. ... LSU also starts a three-guard rotation, but boasts 7-foot, 260-pound C Justin Hamilton (13.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg) in the post. PG Anthony Hickey (9.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg) is one of the finest on-ball perimeter defenders in the league, one of the reasons the Tigers rank second in the SEC in steals (8 per game), have held 12 opponents to under 60 points this season (they’re 11-1 in those games) and and allowing just 39-percent shooting from the field and 31 from the 3-point line. ... LSU is coached by Trent Johnson, who is 61-55 in his four seasons since coming from Stanford in 2008 



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