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Wednesday October 2, 2013Carter Happy to be Eligible, Now Wants to be Healthy

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The news first broke on Twitter (as news often does these days), but Eli Carter was sacked out with the flu Monday morning when awakened by a friend’s cell phone call.

“Hey man, you’re cleared!”

Carter, the transfer guard from Rutgers, already was a Gator, but when the NCAA signed off on the waiver request to grant the 6-foot-2 guard immediately eligibility, Carter became a Gator who can play basketball in the 2013-14 season.

“I was pretty confident it would happen,” Carter told Wednesday. “I didn’t stress it too much.”

Now, it’s a matter of getting healthy.

Carter, the Paterson, N.J., product who led the Scarlett Knights with 14.3 points per game the last two seasons, broke his leg Feb. 16 in a game against DePaul. The injury not only ended his sophomore season, but has been slow to heal since he officially arrived at UF in time for the summer “B” session.

Gators coach Billy Donovan said this week that Carter has not been cleared for practice, which starts Oct. 11, and likely will not be ready when Florida opens the regular season Nov. 8 against North Florida.

“It’s going to be a process,” Donovan said. “Right now, he’s way, way behind. He’s behind in terms of his conditioning and being able to play. He’s only been able to do a few workouts by himself.”

That’s better, though, than where Carter was even a month ago, when his progress was not nearly as encouraging.

“I’ve tried not to get too frustrated,” Carter said. “But it’s been frustrating, yeah.”

When healthy, Carter has an all-around backcourt game the Gators have seen first hand. Two seasons ago, Rutgers stunned No. 10 Florida 85-83 in double-overtime, with Carter practically single-handedly doing the damage with a career-high 31 points (12 of 24 from the floor), seven rebounds and seven assists in 46 minutes.

And, yes, that game has come up in conversations with his new teammates.

“We joke around sometimes about it,” Carter smiled. “It was a good game ... a great game, actually.”

Yeah, for Carter.

That’s the guy the Gators remember and the guy Donovan hopes will help a team in need of backcourt help after saying good bye to starting guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario, plus the perimeter shooting touch of stretch forward Erik Murphy, now with the Chicago Bulls.

Carter played at the prep basketball factory of Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony’s, the same school that produced Rosario, another Rutgers-to-UF transfer. Carter came to Florida for the same reason as his predecessor.

“The winning culture,” Carter said.

He believes his tools will help UF build on the run of 13 NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 15 years, including three straight ventures to the Elite Eight. 

“I’m a scorer, but I also get after it on the defensive end,” said Carter, who suffered through a pair of losing seasons at Rutgers and ultimately picked UF over Maryland. “I bring experience, leadership and just an edgy side. I’m someone who is going to be ready to play each and every day.”

But not until that leg heals up to the satisfaction of the medical staff.

 “I think it’ll be a little while longer, but I’m not really putting myself on a timetable,” Carter said. “I just know I’ll get there.”


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