Walker finally cleared to play for the Gators
Published on Wednesday, 1/29/14, at 7:21 p.m. Eastern.
Updated on Wednesday, 2/5/14, at 2:35 p.m. Eastern
By Brian Edwards
Update: Walker made his debut in a home win over Missouri on Feb. 4. He only played seven minutes but produced four points on a pair of slam dunks and also blocked two shots. His length and athleticism were apparent, as was his chemistry with AAU teammate and fellow freshman McDonald’s All-American, Kasey Hill, who found Walker for a sweet alley-oop flush late in the first half. I would look for Billy Donovan to gradually increase his minutes with the hope that he can give the Gators about 20 minutes off the bench if needed come March.
At long last, the NCAA has reached a conclusion in the case of Florida freshman Chris Walker. The organization announced Wednesday that Walker has been suspended for 12 games and he’s cleared to return in UF’s home game Tuesday vs. Missouri.
Why? Well, Walker apparently received $270 from two different agents while he was playing AAU basketball during his high-school years. He also got free food, free airfare and hotel lodging from three different people. For this, he must perform 80 hours of community service.
The NCAA also indicated that associates of Walker were provided free airfare for eight different trips for his AAU team.
My only question: What big-time high-school recruit doesn’t receive all of the benefits listed above?
Anyway, we all know what an incompetent job the people at the NCAA do, so that’s not a big shocker. The good news for Florida is that there’s finally a resolution to this mess.
“I appreciate all the support from UF, Coach Donovan and my teammates, and I’m looking forward to helping the team any way I can,” Walker said in a statement.
Walker is a McDonald’s All-American who led Holmes Co. High School to a state title in Florida last year. He was admitted to school in early December and has been practicing with the team since then.
ESPN.com’s NBA Draft guru Chad Ford has had Walker as the No. 22 pick in his latest mock for the upcoming draft. However, nobody should expect him to come in and have a huge impact, especially on the offensive end.
Walker is raw offensively and he only has 215 pounds on a 6-10 frame. He has added 10 pounds since joining the team.
What Walker can do immediately is provide a shot-blocking presence and rebound. If he can become a reserve big that can play 15-20 minutes, block a few shots, grab some rebounds and provide a few garbage buckets, then Billy Donovan will be thrilled.
Without Walker, Florida is a serious Final Four contender, one that has only lost at Wisconsin and at UConn. In both of those defeats, the Gators were playing without key players. All of those guys are healthy now and here comes Walker into the mix.
After leaving the NCAA Tournament with three straight losses in the Elite Eight, the senior-laden 2013-2014 team appears to be Florida’s best bet to win a national title since the 2006-2007 teams repeated.