Florida Gators freshman forward Walter Pitchford has decided to transfer after one year with the team in order to play basketball closer to home.
Spending just one year at the University of Florida and only seeing a total of 22 minutes of action in 13 of the team’s 37 games, Pitchford was the last scholarship player on the bench this season and considered a bit of a project. However, he always worked hard in practice and was a productive member of the team.
Pitchford told OGGOA on Wednesday that he and his family decided it would be best that he leave the program and play closer to his home state of Michigan at least partially due to his grandfather being ill.
“It’s definitely the best thing for him and his family, just with some of his extenuating circumstances,” head coach Billy Donovan told the school’s website. “Right now, he just needs to be near his family. They need him home and they want him home.”
Pitchford was pleased with his time in Gainesville, FL and praised both the coaching staff and his teammates for helping make him a better basketball player.
“My time here – I like to say that this was a learning year for me,” he said. “I really enjoyed learning from one of the greatest coaches in Coach Donovan. The assistant coaches – I really loved learning from them. Besides that, I learned a lot from my teammates. I learned something from everybody in the program. Everybody had something to add that I picked up from and will learn from.”
Donovan noticed that leadership was an issue with UF during the season and began preaching communication among the players during games. Pitchford said that is one thing in particular that he will take away from his time with the team.
“Something that clicked for me was being more verbal, being able to help tell [my] teammates what to do, saying good job, picking them up or just keeping the team excited. I learned [how important it is] to bring more energy and extra stuff,” he said.
His departure opens up one scholarship for the Gators to utilize in 2012-13. The team may wind up with two available slots should freshman guard Bradley Beal decide this month to declare for the 2012 NBA Draft.
Florida has targeted five-star power forward Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV) to fill that remaining scholarship, but he will not make a decision until early May and is also considering a number of other schools including Kentucky, Oregon and UNLV.
The Gators’ 2012 recruiting class currently consists of three guards. With Pitchford planning to leave the team, Florida will have only three players over 6’7” on the roster next season (as of press time) – sophomore center Patric Young (6’9”), junior F Erik Murphy (6’10”) and redshirt freshman F/C Cody Larson (6’9”).