Posted: 9:33 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013
By Jason Lieser
Imagine the hours Gators coach Billy Donovan and his staff put in trying to land all-America prospect Chris Walker. After all that work to sign him, Florida will not have him when it opens practice Friday.
Walker, from Holmes County HS in Bonifay, did not qualify academically and was unable to enroll at UF for the fall semester. His best hope now is to qualify in time to join the Gators in December.
Is that going to happen?
“He’s working really, really hard,” Donovan said Thursday. “I’m optimistic that he’ll be back here.”
If Walker qualifies, he could be available for Florida’s Dec. 17 game against Memphis in New York.
The problem with that, however, is that it might be difficult to work his way into the rotation at that point in the season. By mid-December, he would have missed a full month of pre-season practices and the first nine games.
“That’s the challenge — him trying to play catch up for what he will have missed,” Donovan said. “We’ll have to see how much or how well he can pick it up. That’s the unknown for me.
“If he is here, what kind of condition is he in? How quickly can he absorb what’s going on? Do you cut down what you’re doing just to make it a little bit more simple for him? We’ll probably have to do that with him being a freshman. If that opportunity presents itself, we’ll figure out a way to try to utilize him as best we can.”
Walker seems like he’s worth the trouble. He is a 6-foot-11, 230-pound forward who was ranked the No. 12 recruit in the country by ESPN. He averaged 32.1 points and 15.2 rebounds per game as a senior.
Donovan likened the Walker situation to his recruitment of Kwame Brown in the early 2000s. Brown was set to become a Gator before opting to go pro.
Walker could end up doing the same, just in a different way. DraftExpress has him projected to go No. 11 overall in next year’s NBA draft. If he does not qualify at UF or simply decides not to attend, it would not affect his eligibility for the draft.