UF’s Chris Walker enters NBA Draft

Published on Saturday, 4/25/15, at 4:22 p.m. Eastern.

As expected, Florida sophomore center Chris Walker has chosen to enter the NBA Draft and forgo his final two seasons of college. Walker, a five-star recruit who led Holmes Co. High School to a state championship in his senior season, had an immensely disappointing two-year playing career for the Gators.

However, Walker shouldn’t receive heavy criticism for his lack of production. He always had a good attitude, never displayed poor body language despite dealing with frustration galore and appeared to always be a good teammate.

To say he came from an unfortunate background would be an understatement. Walker never had any parental guidance and hails from Bonifay in the Florida panhandle. The small town is one that consists of low-income families and very little in the way of mentors for someone like Walker to learn from during his prep years.

Walker is long, tall and athletic and those traits would’ve made him a guaranteed lottery pick coming out of high school. But the NBA rule preventing players from turning pro until least one year removed from high school cost Walker millions.

Walker dominated the AAU circuit with his skills and athleticism, but he had never been correctly schooled on the fundamentals of the game. He got by on his size but had yet to develop any semblance of back-to-the-basket post moves.

His freshman season at Florida was basically ruined because of an academic situation. The NCAA didn’t allow Walker to start practicing with the team until after Christmas and he wasn’t ruled eligible until early February. At that point, UF was in the midst of a 30-game winning streak.

Walker would only get 5-8 minutes of playing time per game because he was lost on defense. And the Gators were playing the best defense in the nation, so Billy Donovan couldn’t allow one player to ruin that. Walker showed some flashes of his talent as a freshman but what was seemingly most important — at least to me — was that he seemed happy and willing to learn. Walker was simply stoked to be a part of a great team, regardless of his limited playing time.

The thinking was that with Patric Young and Will Yuguete graduating, Walker would put on muscle and become a force as a sophomore. But it never happened. He played fewer minutes (and was less effective) than walk-on Jacob Kurtz.

Walker averaged 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. And now here we are, two years after he was a projected lottery pick, Walker probably won’t get drafted. He’ll get looks, whether it be in the D-League or overseas and, hopefully, he’ll be able to make some money.

Walker is a good kid. Though his UF career was disappointing, Gator fans shouldn’t have hard feelings. Walker, a product of a poor environment his entire life, simply couldn’t adjust quickly enough to be a major factor at one of the nation’s top programs.

I hope he makes it — at least to some extent — but like most, I certainly have my doubts.

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