Donovan upbeat about Walker’s progress, future

By Adam Silverstein
January 27, 2014

Visibly frustrated and fed up with the NCAA dragging its feet in regards to the eligibility of Florida Gators forward Chris Walker, head coach Billy Donovan last week claimed he was done answering questions about the much-hyped freshman.

But Donovan displayed an improved disposition about the situation on Monday when he not only discussed Walker at length but exuded positivity while talking about how the five-star prospect could help Florida over the remaining weeks of the 2013-14 season.

“Yeah, I’m gonna play him,” said Donovan without hesitation or exception when asked if he had any reservations about Walker seeing the court once he was cleared.

“He’s more prepared than he was a couple of weeks ago. I think the biggest adjustment he’s made is just having a better feel for what we’re doing defensively than offensively.”

Walker, who joined the team on Dec. 14, 2013 and has missed 10 games while he awaits clearance from the NCAA, has remained motivated albeit extremely frustrated throughout his unfortunate predicament.

National analysts like Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas has come to his defense, calling out the organization for holding Walker, his team and its fans hostage while fishing for a reason to keep him on the bench and off the court. Even Donovan discussed his displeasure with how the events have transpired.

Now Walker’s coach is more concerned about relaying the fact that his heralded freshman has gained approximately 10 pounds through the Gators strength program.

Donovan has transitioned from dismissing questions about Walker and whether he will play to answering queries about what will happen when he finally gets on the court.

“I’m sure he’ll be very anxious and nervous and excited.” he said. “How many minutes we could actually get out of him? I’m not really sure, but he’s a really, really good kid that’s worked hard, and he’s eager to learn and get better. I appreciate just the way he’s handled himself in a very difficult situation.”

Donovan has even turned to his tried and true method of telling media and fans not to compare his latest top-tier talent to an NBA superstar, such as when he suggested that holding up Patric Young to Dwight Howard and Dorian Finney-Smith to Magic Johnson (something that never happened) was unfair to the players.

“Sometimes when the guy’s not playing, the legend of Chris Walker grows greater than who he really actually is, you know? It’s the same thing with Doe-Doe last year. He’s sitting out and everyone’s talking about this guy like he’s Magic Johnson,” Donovan said.

“Chris Walker now it’s like, my God, this guy is going to end up being Kevin Garnett. I mean, he’s not that. And I think if anybody, whenever he gets able to play, if that’s your expectation of Chris Walker, then you’re going to be very, very disappointed because he’s not that.”

Donovan claims he simply does not want Walker to believe he has to live up to all of the hype, anticipation and excitement that has been somewhat artificially built up, though he was a top 10-rated talent coming out of high school. He is more concerned with Walker doing what he can to help the team immediately.

“If anybody’s expecting him to be a savior, it would really be unfair. He’s got a lot of growing to do,” Donovan said.

For Florida, which was newly minted as the No. 3 team in the nation just hours after Donovan spoke on Monday, it is unlikely any sane college basketball fan believes the Gators need a hero or expects Walker to don a cape when he eventually takes the court.

All anyone wants is for him to be a basketball player again.


  1. Keith says:


  2. Paul says:

    10 pounds?* thanks for all your hard work Adam. It great to be a Florida gator.

  3. Kaleb Wolfe says:

    Hopefully maybe…..just maybe Coach Donavan knows something we don’t know just yet…..Adam??? Lol anyways Go Gators!!!!! & of course #FreeChrisWalker ( Watching the Tenesseee Game especially in the 1st half it became very obvious to me that we need another body around the rim that’s north of 6’9, teams down the road with big tough talented rebounding front courts will continue to give us trouble as they have in past seasons, they’re our Achilles heel so to speak, I believe that a 6’10 220lb obviously would truly compliment Patrick Young so very much, not taking away from the rest of our forward/guards , it’s just a shame that 6’11 Harris isn’t out there with his shot blocking ability & to have another “big man” to help spell Young at times and after last season’s loss to Michigan in the tournament with what I saw potentially coming in the next season with a potential very dangerous and finally actually having a big front court would allow 6’9 Patrick Young to flourish the thoughts in my head were immediately reminisent of the past 2 back to back National Title Championship teams with the combination of size, atleticism and speed……Give Donovan a lot of credit for not abandoning his core principles in not allowing Center Domantre Harris to come back and play, eventhough inspite of me I wish he would’ve lol Go Gators #FreeChrisWalker

    • Michael Jones says:

      lol. . well-said, Kaleb, all the way through. Those kind of teams have been our Achilles heel in the past.

      I also agree that it’s a good thing we’re dealing with Donovan’s values and not mine, because I would have been way too tempted to find a way to get Harris back on the court this year. But Coach is right. You undermine the whole program if you do it any other way.

      • Kaleb Wolfe says:

        Thanks Michael Jones and yes you’re right, in by not following through with you’re punishment you do run the possible risk of undermining the whole basketball team/program…..

  4. Gatorgrad79 says:


  5. Will W says:

    I love how Coach D talks about him as the next Kevin Garnett – Those skill sets will be nice from our 3rd guy off the bench.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      I think what Donovan said was DON’T expect him to be the next Kevin Garnett.

      • Exactly. I tried to spell all that out.

        • Will W says:

          Guys – I get that. Just sayin’ – if that’s the first name that came to mind when thinking about Walker – not a bad thing.

          • HeadOfficial says:

            Instead of “bashing” Will W about him not understanding Coach D’s intention, you should think that of all the NBA players that Donovan could have used as an example of NOT comparing CW play-style to, he chose Kevin Garnett. I think this is the point that Will W was reaching: Billy D used KG as an example instead of, say, Al Horford or Chandler Parsons or Davis Lee!

            I, too, can imagine like Will W about what kind of games we would be seeing this year and how confident we would feel of winning a National Championship if our front court was Dwight Howard (Young), Magic Johnson (Finney-Smith) and Kevin Garnett (Walker)!

            • Will W says:

              Hey thanks for standing up for me HeadOfficial. That’s what I’m talking about – I can’t wait for Magic Johnson to throw a full court pass to Kevin Garnett who finsihes with a 360 dunk at the rim.

  6. 1955Gator says:

    Will W
    That is not what he is saying. Read the article again.

  7. John says:

    Obviously the NCAA gave Donovan some news, either that or Chris Walker has just went off in practice.

  8. Ken (CA) says:

    To heck with gaining 10 lbs in the Gator strength program, I can gain 10 lbs in the Gator Cheeseburger program! Its good to hear Coach D talking positively about him, especially so soon after he said he wasn’t going to discuss the situation anymore. Something clearly has changed and has changed for the better, we just aren’t privvy to it yet.

    There were supposed to be a couple of recruit announcements over the weekend that were considering UF, but since I haven’t seen anything here about it, I guess they must have either not announced or chosen other schools. Any news coming on that front Aadm?

  9. michaeld says:

    Getting an additional big will take so much pressure off of Patric and his invariable foul trouble that has beset him recently. It is just too easy to get two first half fouls and you’re out for the half. FREE CHRIS WALKER!

    Thanks Adam for the great job you do helping us enjoy this season!

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