Freshman PF Chris Walker announces return to Florida Gators for sophomore season

Freshman power forward Chris Walker announced Wednesday that he intends to skip the 2014 NBA Draft, continue playing college basketball and return to the Florida Gators as a sophomore for the 2014-15 season.

“This year has been a great one, and I’m happy to say I will be joining the gatornation again for one more year!” he wrote Wednesday afternoon on Twitter.

Walker, an athletic frontcourt player who joined the team in mid-December after being declared academically ineligible for the fall semester, did not play his first game until Feb. 4 while serving an NCAA suspension for accepting impermissible benefits.

He averaged 4.8 minutes over the 18 games he did play, amassing a grand total of 34 points, 24 rebounds and eight blocks on the season.

As he neither went through the offseason strength and conditioning program nor spent the summer and fall practicing with the team, Walker was far behind when he eventually became eligible for the Gators.

His length and athleticism were apparent in his rebounding and shot blocking, but he often rushed shots when getting post touches and was considered a liability on defense.


“For him, it’s going to be a process,” head coach Billy Donovan said on March 26.

“There’s a lot of things that he needs to learn. There’s a lot of growth that he needs. He needs to get physically stronger. He missed a whole summer and fall of lifting. He really missed the whole summer and fall of conditioning. He’s been a great kid to coach. He keeps working and getting better, but he’s got a long road ahead of him to get to the level that he needs and wants to get.”

Nevertheless, Walker was the only player on Florida’s 2013-14 roster projected to be a first-round selection in the upcoming NBA Draft due to his tremendous upside. The former five-star recruit was projected as a lottery selection before his freshman campaign exposed some flaws in his game and development.

Returning to the Gators for a second (first full) season will give Walker the opportunity to improve his game and boost his draft stock immensely by the time the selection process rolls around again in June of 2015.

“I want to get both mentally and physically stronger and work on all aspects of my game to make me the best player possible,” he told Florida’s school website after making his announcement. “It will give me an opportunity to build my body and get more one-on-one work with my coaches and put me in the position to not only start next season but be a main factor.”

Indeed, Walker can be penciled in to start at center for the Gators in 2014-15 with redshirt junior Damontre Harris, who was dismissed from the team in the fall before returning after Thanksgiving, likely serving a reserve role.

With Florida losing four starting seniors – a class that helped the program advance to three-straight Elite Eights (2011-13) and a Final Four (2014) – to graduation, Walker’s return is a huge boost. The Gators will also be bringing back starting sophomore guard Michael Frazier II, redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith, freshman point guard Kasey Hill and sophomore G/F DeVon Walker, among others.

Finney-Smith and Hill will both move into starting roles.


Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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19 Responses to “Freshman PF Chris Walker announces return to Florida Gators for sophomore season”

  1. Dave Massey says:

    Smart move. Billy will develop this guy into a top five NBA pick. Hope he swats that mouthy little incoming freshman from Kentucky who said Wilbekin was no good. Hey Adam, how is Eli Carter doing?

  2. Keith says:

    He will have a Joakim Noah type freshman to Soph jump, I’m pretty certain

  3. Gatorgrad79 says:

    Great news for both Walker and the Gators!

  4. 305Gator says:

    Great news for GatorNation. This move assures that we won’t miss a beat and come back strong next year again.
    Go Gators!

  5. gatorboi352 says:

    We will theoretically have Chris Walker and Demontre Harris as our two centers next year. WOWZERS!

  6. Guest says:

    Why would Damontre Harris be serving a reserve roll and not starting, Walker isn’t really a center anyways.

  7. Guest says:

    Wouldn’t the optimum starting line-up look like this?

    PG – Kasey Hill
    SG – Michael Frazier
    SF – Dorian Finney-Smith
    PF – Chris Walker
    C – Damontre Harris

    Unless Brandone Francis or Devin Robinson come into Florida unexpectedly more amazing than currently perceived, I don’t understand why Damontre wouldn’t be penciled in at 5 with Walker at 4.

    • Any other big men on the team? I personally would like to have a back-up center coming off the bench as opposed to starting my two biggest guys right out of the gate in games.

      • Guest says:

        So your suggesting giving him a bench role with starters minutes right because that would make sense.

      • gatorboi352 says:

        “I personally would like to have a back-up center coming off the bench as opposed to starting my two biggest guys right out of the gate in games.”

        Bingo.

        Also, I don’t understand why everyone thinks Walker is a 4. The guy is a center through and through. Having both Harris and Walker on the floor at the same time would not only clog the lane on offense, but it would leave Florida susceptible on perimeter defense. Can you envision Walker or Harris locking down the 3 point line against any stretch 4s? I can’t.

        • gatorboi352 says:

          Sorry for the double post,

          Give me Doe-Doe/Murphy at the 4, and Walker/Harris at the 5.

        • He’s a 4 in skill set, IMO.

          • gatorboi352 says:

            Well, true, in skill set he’s almost limitless in the front court, potentially. The number of times he was displayed accidental greatness in such limited time off the bench this past season was remarkable.

            I feel like in Billy’s system though, he will (at least at first) limit Walker’s minutes at the 4 unless match ups dictate otherwise. Just my take.

      • Gatoralum88 says:

        Why is Harris a RS Senior? Shouldn’t he still have 2 years of eligibility left. Was he kept on scholarship with UF? He hasn’t been part of the official roster (& still isn’t according to Gatorzone) since being given permission to transfer in December. Frankly, having seen both play, I’m not so sure Harris wouldn’t be a better option (older, bigger body) to start. For me, a lot will depend on how much progress Walker makes this summer & how much bigger he gets. So far, I haven’t been too impressed. He’d have been a fool turning pro & I’m glad he had enough sense to realize that.

        Also, any update on when Trey Mourning will be announcing something? If he comes aboard, Guest’s starting line-up would be fine with me.

        • Harris – It should read “redshirt junior” for him…but he will be a redshirt senior next year. He completely lost a year of eligibility, whether or not he was on scholarship, unless Florida somehow petitions to get him an extra year.

          Mourning – No.

  8. Keith says:

    I wonder if Jon Horford is interesting in UF, he’s reportedly is transferring from Michigan. He would be a great addition at the 4.

  9. Keith says:

    Although Harris did not play this year, his clock is still running per NCAA

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