For the second-straight offseason, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan will not be with his team when it begins summer training activities on campus in Gainesville, FL. Instead, Donovan will once again be coaching USA Basketball as it competes this year at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic.
While he obviously holds his job at Florida as priority No. 1, Donovan and has said multiple times that he is only working with USA Basketball because it is a manageable situation for him as his experienced coaching staff is capable of leading the program in his absence during a portion of the Summer B semester.
Filling in for Donovan during his scheduled Monday media appearance on the annual summertime Southeastern Conference teleconference was third-year assistant Matt McCall, who said the Gators are getting down to business while Donovan is overseas.
“Obviously this is an exciting time when you’re able to get some of your new guys on campus and have your old guys back and start working with them here,” McCall said. “[It will be nice to] get them in the weight room with our strength coach and start preparing for next year.”
With Donovan and rising sophomore guard Michael Frazier both representing the United States in Prague, Florida needs every healthy body it can get in town working to get ready for the 2013-14 season.
McCall noted that one of the Gators’ two five-star incoming freshmen is all ready to go while another still has plenty of progress to make on his grades before he can enroll.
“Kasey Hill will be enrolled in classes. He has orientation starting [Tuesday],” McCall said. “Chris [Walker] is still working towards some different things academically.”
Hill being able to begin practice is great news for Florida. With rising senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin currently indefinitely suspended and unable to practice with the team, Hill is currently the only true floor general the Gators have on their roster.
Walker’s academic issues have been a known problem as far as Florida is concerned. The Gators are hoping for a positive update from him later in the summer but are taking a wait-and-see approach at this time. Even if Walker does make the grades, he will still have to pass through the NCAA Clearinghouse before he can enroll at Florida.
“Right now, he’s continuing to work. And the one thing I will say about Chris is he’s committed to the process,” McCall added. “He has really done an unbelievable job. He will continue to work hard, and we should know something more later on in the summer.”
As was the case last year, the Gators should be well into the offseason by the time Donovan returns on or before July 8. At that time, he will likely address Wilbekin’s status with the team and other issues surrounding Florida basketball.
CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish explains why the odds have been stacked against Walker seemingly from the very beginning:
Walker’s father has forever been non-existent.
His mother essentially abandoned him years ago.
He’s spent his high school years living with a guardian named Jeneen Campbell and attending one of the state of Florida’s smallest public schools, mostly because he wanted to be loyal to the woman who was loyal to him. Walker could’ve transferred to any of the fancy basketball academies at any time over the past few years, and he would’ve probably benefited academically from it. But when you’ve been left by the adults whose top responsibility is to never leave you, it must be difficult to then turnaround and leave the one adult who didn’t. So Walker stayed with Campbell and at Holmes County High. [...]
I’d hate to see a young man fail to reach his potential and possibly break a cycle of poverty based on little more than the idea that he was born into a situation that isn’t too conducive to success. Sure, Walker could’ve probably been better in the classroom over the years; there’s no denying he’s played a role in his academic shortcomings. But I genuinely believe his situation is more about him being a product of his environment than anything else, and the most decent outcome would be for Walker to somehow get enrolled at Florida, become a part of a structured and positive environment and be given, perhaps for the first time in his life, a chance to flourish or fail on a level playing field so many of us enjoy and actually take for granted.