Source: USA TODAY
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Chris Walker saga has finally led to one of the nation’s elite recruits becoming a Florida Gator.
Walker has joined the men’s basketball team for workouts and will accompany the Gators to New York for their game Tuesday night against Memphis. Florida coach Billy Donovan said last week he didn’t expect the McDonald’s All-American to be ready to play in that game.
That means the earliest his debut could be in a Florida uniform would likely be against Fresno State on Dec. 21. Walker’s home debut as a Gator could be on Dec. 29 against Savannah State but he is expected to see limited minutes in early games.
Wallker has been admitted to Florida but must still get through the NCAA Clearinghouse.
Donovan, who has never had a player join his team in midseason since arriving at Florida in 1996, will get the 6-10 Walker after he fulfills academic requirements that kept him out of school and off the roster at the start of the season.
The delay in his class work also kept Walker from getting accepted at Florida and making it through the NCAA Clearinghouse.
Donovan said last week there was still a question how long it would take him to get through the Clearinghouse to be eligible.
Walker, who was rated the 12th-best recruit in the nation by ESPN. He is known as a standout shot blocker who runs the court well for a big man. Various experts already have him forecast as a likely high first-round NBA draft pick and he’s not expected to stay in school but his freshman year.
The Gators came into the season with a solid inside game with seniors Patric Young and Will Yeguete. Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith can move inside but has played out front more with a rash of guard injuries early in the schedule.
Damontre Harris, another big man who transferred from South Carolina and sat out last season, has been in limbo after being suspended at the start of the season.
Both point guards, Scottie Wilbekin (who also started the year suspended) and freshman Kasey Hill have suffered ankle sprains but both returned for the 67-61 win against Kansas on Tuesday.
Yeguete started the season on a limited practice schedule after his second knee surgery over the summer. Guard Eli Carter, a transfer from Rutgers, was limited by a broken leg suffered last February and ended up redshirting. Fellow guard Dillon Graham is also redshirting with hip problems.
Guards DeVon Walker and Mike Frazier had a sprained foot and mono. Finney-Smith came down with a virus.
The addition of Walker could be a major physical and emotional lift in many ways.
David Jones writes for Florida Today.