Scottie Wilbekin gets his act together

"We were very disappointed, and I let him know very clearly how disappointed I was in him, and I told him that he was going to have to figure this out for himself and to figure out who he was going to be," Sven said. "It was difficult for all of us. I think he did a lot of soul-searching. We were not going to make [decisions] for him. I told him it was his decision, but I told him I was not going to help him with the process. I was not going to call coaches for him. I wasn't going to take him on visits. If he wanted to do this, he was going to have to do this by himself."

Wilbekin realized it, too.

That's when the sadness set in.

Even though he decided to stay at Florida, his supporters had stepped back -- not to harm him, but to give him a chance to fix his life. They'd cheer for him as he attempted to rebuild, but he knew he was on a solo journey.

"It was horrible, I felt awful," Wilbekin said. "It was honestly the lowest point of my career, and when you're at a low point like that, you really find out who's in your corner. I felt bad for my family and my teammates."

For a lengthy term, he couldn't practice or work out with his teammates. He'd upset his father and his coach. And there was no promise of playing time, especially with All-American prep point guard Kasey Hill entering the mix.

That period of isolation, he told his teammates, helped him understand the gravity of his errors.

"He told us that it was kind of difficult for him because he was away from us," said Will Yeguete, Wilbekin's teammate and longtime friend. "Being patient wasn't that easy for him."

Everything had come so quickly to Wilbekin.

He was a young star on his father's team at The Rock School in Gainesville. He was so advanced, on the court and in the classroom, he graduated high school in three years and commenced his collegiate career when he was 17 years old.

In his first season, he was a reserve on a Florida team that reached the first of three consecutive Elite Eights. That early success, Donovan said, didn't help him mature.

"He's not a bad kid," Donovan said. "I think he was a very immature kid that probably went to college a year early and didn't take care of his responsibilities and do the things he needed to do on a consistent basis."

Yet, Wilbekin didn't push the red "easy" button on his career and leave the program. He could have. But he wanted to change and prove that his coaches, parents and teammates could trust him again.

And that attitude preceded a comeback that has positioned Florida to secure a coveted No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Once he was reinstated, Wilbekin worked to regain the respect of his teammates. He talked to the younger Gators about the errors he'd made. And he showed Donovan that he finally recognized the severity of his past actions and the responsibility he has now.

"The life lessons he learned by sticking through this and doing what's required of him are invaluable," Svend said.

His son's confrontation of his own deficiencies turned into a process of growth that helped Florida retain its leader. And it provided the necessary evidence to both Donovan and Wilbekin's teammates that he was serious about change.

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