Florida’s Chris Walker declares for NBA Draft

By Adam Silverstein
April 24, 2015

Sophomore center Chris Walker, a highly-touted five-star prospect who struggled to make an impact in two years with the Florida Gators, has decided to leave the team to try his hand at becoming a professional basketball player.

Walker has officially declared for the 2015 NBA Draft, joining junior guard Michael Frazier II, who left the program weeks ago. Walker’s declaration comes two days before the NBA’s Sunday draft declaration deadline.

“I want to thank the coaching staff, my teammates and everyone at Florida for my experience here,” Walker said in a school release. “I’m excited to continue pursuing my dream of playing professionally.”

Ranked as one of the top 10 players in the country coming out of Bonifay High School, Walker struggled to become academically eligible for the Gators as a true freshman. He worked diligently on his grades during the offseason and earned that eligibility for the 2013-14 spring semester but missed additional games while working through an NCAA rules violation.

Coming off the bench for a Florida team that made it to the Final Four, Walker averaged just 1.9 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.8 minutes per game that season. He was expected to truly develop in the offseason ahead of the 2014-15 campaign and play a major role for a Gators team in drastic need of frontcourt help.

Instead, Walker missed the first two games of the regular season while suspended for a violation of team rules and failed to show any consistency on the court, averaging 4.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 14.6 minutes per game despite being one of two centers on the roster. His inability to develop and become the post presence that UF needed was one reason for the team’s struggles last season.

“Chris has been a pleasure to coach,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “He is a great kid with a lot of potential, and everyone here wishes the absolute best for him.”

Multiple sources told OnlyGators.com at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season that Walker’s future at Florida was up in the air. The player never planned to spend more than two years with the Gators, but his struggles to comprehend his coaches’ desires, coupled with his overall lack of production, led him to understand that he probably needs more fine-tuning before trying his hand at playing the game professionally.

However, two sources also told OnlyGators.com that multiple non-basketball factors – including academics – would heavily influence his decision at season’s end, almost assuredly leading to his splitting with the program.

His departure from Florida was nearly a foregone conclusion, the only choice he had to make was whether to continue his career in college or as a professional, whether in the United States (NBA, NBA D-League) or overseas.

Walker joined the Gators with an AAU teammate and fellow five-star prospect in point guard Kasey Hill. His departure leaves Florida with the necessary space to provide scholarships for its entire four-member 2015 signing class.

Update: Walker released a statement on Instagram later Friday after the announcement was officially made.

”I would like to thank the University of Florida, Coach Billy Donovan and the entire Gator Coaching Staff, all of my teammates, and the Gator Fans in Gainesville and all around the country for their support over the past 2 years. I have been struggling with the decision to stay in school or make the jump to the NBA over the past month. After meeting with my family, I have decided to forgo my final 2 years in college, and enter the 2015 NBA Draft. I have dreamed of playing in the NBA since I picked up a basketball, and now I have the opportunity to make that dream come true. I will always cherish the life long memories on the University Florida campus with my friends and teammates and I’m proud to be a Gator for Life.”

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press


  1. Michael Jones says:

    I hope that things turn around for the kid. His time at UF–beginning with the weirdness over getting him cleared by the NCAA–has been a huge puzzle for me. As it stands, he is maybe our biggest all-time Jamarcus Russell.

    • Gatoralum88 says:

      Your analogy is slightly off. At least Russell was a very good college player. If you want to make a football comparison, Bobby Sabelhaus, who signed with UF as the #1 HS QB in ’95, is more apropos. Walker is unquestionably the ALL-TIME basketball bust & I can’t even find a close second while doing a Google search.

      His NBA draft stock no longer exists. I doubt anyone will draft him on “potential” at this point after what he hasn’t shown these past two seasons. I can’t remember which game it was but Billy definitely bashed Walker’s work ethic/lack thereof earlier this year after a loss when he barely saw action saying something like “he’s often the last to arrive & first to leave practice”. Sure, he may have talent which is intriguing but talent is worthless unless you try to develop it. Kevin Durant (ironically) is credited with a great quote on talent: “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”…words Walker should take to heart if he ever hopes to succeed as a pro. Go Gators.

      • Michael Jones says:

        Just for fun, I disagree with your assessment of Russell. IMO he had one big game– the 2007 Sugar Bowl–and it turned out to be Fool’s Gold to the tune of $32 million guaranteed paid out by the Raiders. . . . holy smokes. . . . .!! There is a school of thought among NFL and NBA scouts that the bowl season and the NCAA tourney can really hurt a pro franchise, because that is when the owner and the coach are most at risk of getting overly impressed with performances that weren’t really sustained over the athlete’s college career and, therefore, not indicative of his true potential/talent.

        My analogy was intended to refer to highly touted prospects who flop in the transition to the next level, not necessarily limited to just H.S.-to-college. But point taken.

        Great Kevin Durant quote. He is one of those guys who is BOTH talented AND a hardworking gym rat whose work ethic is almost legendary, so he knows well that of which he speaks. I think it’s why we love the Rudy’s but we struggle with a physically gifted athlete who doesn’t realize his potential for lack of commitment, work ethic, and/or discipline.

      • Dave Massey says:

        Don’t even need to go back that far, toss in some Gatorade poy, how about Driskel, John Brantley, or even Brock Berlin.

        Walker wasn’t cleared at first because he accepted impermissible benefits. And got suspended to start his sophomore year

        I believe he’s declaring because he won’t improve anymore in college and he doesn’t have the patience to sit out a year. He’s going to make whatever he can while he can.

        His best chance to do anything to do with NBA is to get a sex change and try for the WNBA.

        The next closest thing to him in gators history is probably Kasey Hill. Of course, before BD it’s not like Florida was signing a lot of 5* recruits.

        Normally, I like to follow former gator players careers but in this case I just don’t care. IMO he just never laid it on the line for UF, he only cared about his next stop.

      • HeadOfficial says:

        Try looking at Jason Bennett, a 7ft3in 300+lb “legendary” center at Jacksonville’s Arlington Country Day School, a nationally ranked 2A school. Much like Walker, his “prowess” in High School came from towering over his smaller opponents and never really required to play a team defense other than stand in the paint and block layups. He was promised the world by shady Kansas State coach Bob Huggins! He went undrafted in the NBA, played overseas and played one season with Jacksonville Giants pro team locally.

  2. senuod says:

    Well, I wish him luck in the future. He has all of the physical talent and the frame to put on a lot of muscle. It looks like he still needs a lot of development on his game though. Hope he can get that wherever his next stop will be.

  3. SacGator says:

    Best of luck to CW. I think the tittle of the article is very misleading. It should be CW declares for D league :).

  4. Zach G says:

    What a wasted talent. Always wondered why Billy D wouldn’t play him. He would’ve been 2nd team all SEC getting ready to be a lottery/first round pick if he had been given starters minutes. Sad

    • 1974Gator says:

      He wasn’t ready for starters minutes. The HBC knew what he was capable of doing. This could be as a result of needing to free up a scholarship for the new kids coming in.

      • Michael Jones says:

        In all due respect, as with Driskel, I think that the jury is still out on that. If either Chris or Jeff tear it up on their next stop, then a lot of us will need to reconsider our evaluations of these kids.

        Billy’s accomplishments have earned him a revered spot in Gator basketball lore that can never be taken away from him, but I’m still interested to see how Chris’ basketball future pans out.

        Go Gators!!!

        • Ken (CA) says:

          No rational jury is still out on him. No matter what he does his next stop. Maybe he puts in more effort for the paycheck and does better. Fine. As a 2nd year 5 * player considered one of the top 10 recruits in the country the year before, you don’t get less PT than a walk-on team manager on a sub- .500 team unless you really cannot be even as productive as the walk on. A coach the caliber of Billy D is not going to leave him on the bench and lose so many games by such a small amount unless he truly felt he wouldn’t be a positive impact on the court. And when he was on the court, most of the time he wasn’t other than an occasional highlight dunk. He stood around a lot on offense, didn’t defend well, didn’t get into good rebounding position turned the ball over a lot and generally underperformed in virtually every area. along with what, 35% Free throw shooting?

          • Dave Massey says:

            Rational being the operative word here. The conspiracy theorist is at it again. The plain truth is both Walker and Driskel stunk while playing for Florida and it wasn’t the coaches faults. Is anybody really going to care what Driskel does at a second tier program in a second tier conference? C-USA was the weakest of the G5 conferences last year and outside of Marshall didn’t have a decent team. And LT won’t play Marshall this year unless they play them in the championship. So go pad some stats against the likes of Southern, Rice, and North Texas because he won’t be playing football next year. When he had the chance to play big boy football he stunk.

  5. Jeff b says:

    Wish the kid luck.. His time with us didn’t pan out as expected. Go gators!!