As OnlyGators.com first reported on Dec. 4, the Florida Gators confirmed Saturday that five-star forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL) has officially been admitted to the University of Florida and will join his teammates for practice.
Walker, a true freshman whose academic standing prevented him from gaining admission in the summer or fall, worked diligently at his coursework and reached his academic goals weeks ago by completing online classes.
He has spent the last few weeks getting in shape and practicing on his own in nearby Ocala, FL while waiting for the fall semester to come to a conclusion.
Though Walker, considered by many to be a potential lottery selection in the 2014 NBA Draft, has been admitted to UF and can practice with the Gators, he has not yet received approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse to begin playing.
That is expected to come sooner than later, though he may miss a few games due to an outstanding issue regarding the director of his former AAU team.
Even if Walker was completely cleared, head coach Billy Donovan never planned on inserting him into games immediately after he joined the team.
Walker is still behind on Florida’s concepts and must acclimate himself to the team before Donovan, a coach who does not hand out playing time but rather forces his players to earn it in practice, will allow him to see the court.
“He certainly has a lot to catch up on and a lot to make up having missed as much time as he’s missed here,” Donovan said last week.
At 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds, Walker gives Florida a legitimate reserve big man for the first time in years. He was expected to play more of a forward role but will now also have to spend additional time at center due to redshirt junior Damontre Harris not currently being considered a member of team due to a variety of issues.
A source close to the player tells OnlyGators.com that Walker has been told not to expect to play until the new year, though the source also cautioned that he could see the court sooner depending both on the NCAA’s decision and how he performs in practice.
The Gators’ first game of 2014 is set for Saturday, Jan. 4 against Richmond.
Walker, who averaged 32 points and 15 rebounds per game as a senior in high school last year – will don No. 23 for the Florida, a jersey number last worn by Bradley Beal.
Check out a scouting evaluation of Walker and a highlight video…after the break!
Walker is praised for his incredible athleticism and innate basketball skills. He can score in and around the basket, hit jump shots and clean up around the rim on both the offensive and defensive glass. He is also a prime target for lob passes, many of which will undoubtedly come from former AAU teammate and fellow UF freshman, point guard Kasey Hill.
Defensively, he is a sound shot blocker whose height and length gives him a distinct advantage over most of his competitors.
Where Walker must improve is both with his body – he needs to bulk up and fill out his frame – and overall offensive game. He should add some signature post moves and become a more accurate jump shooter, things the coaching staff will likely work with him on throughout his time in Gainesville, FL.