The big news of the weekend for hoops fans in Gainesville was that Florida native and McDonalds All-American Chris Walker was accepted into school.
But it may be a while before Walker actually sees the court.
First things first: he needs to make his was through the NCAA’s Eligibility Center, which is what every incoming freshmen athlete needs to do. Usually, they enroll when Florida isn’t the only place in the country that it is more than 80 degrees. This is standard, although there is no timetable for when he’ll actually make it through.
The other issue is that Walker hasn’t been practicing with the team, and that could actually pose a bigger problem. Most freshmen, regardless of talent level, enter college relatively clueless about the game. They need to learn defensive rotations, offensive sets, different reads for different situations and, most importantly, a feel for how to play with their teammates. That process usually starts during pickup games in the summer and the fall and continues with the start of practice, which was in late September this year.
Walker hasn’t gotten any of that.
“He’s got such a long way to go and it’s not his fault,” head coach Billy Donovan said on Monday. “Obviously when you miss September, October and November and part of December you are going to be really, really behind.”
It will be interesting to see just what kind of impact Walker ends up having.
He’s talented enough to bring another dimension to the Gators if he can figure it all out.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.