Normally an announcement from a player who averaged 1.9 points and 1.3 rebounds per game that he’s decided to return to school for another season would be a confusing one. However Florida freshman forward Chris Walker isn’t your standard player, as he remained on NBA executives’ radars despite playing in just 18 games for Billy Donovan’s Gators.
And with “upside” being seen as a positive, there was a real chance that Walker would have heard his name called in June’s NBA Draft had he decided to leave school.
But that won’t be happening, as the school announced Wednesday that Walker will return for his sophomore season. With the NCAA suspension and the presence of veterans Will Yeguete and Patric Young, Walker played an average of 14.8 minutes per game. But those two veterans did a great deal in helping Walker get acclimated to college basketball and Donovan’s way of doing things, which should serve the young forward well in 2014-15.
With the decision to return now official, Walker can proceed in his work to become the front court anchor Florida will need with Yeguete and Young both out of eligibility.
“I want to get both mentally and physically stronger and work on all aspects of my game to make me the best player possible,” Walker told GatorZone.com. “It will give me an opportunity to build my body and get more one-on-one work with my coaches and put me in the position not only to start next season, but be a main factor.”
In addition to Yeguete and Young the Gators will also lose small forward Casey Prather, which makes the development of Walker and Dorian Finney-Smith critical when assessing Florida’s chances of not only repeating as SEC champions but being a national contender. Florida will add Duke transfer Alex Murphy at the end of the fall semester, and there’s also the Damontre Harris situation to consider.
Harris, who transferred in from South Carolina, was originally dismissed from the team by Donovan in late December but managed to earn a reprieve of sorts a month later. Harris participated in practices but did not sit on the bench during games, and if he can remain in Donovan’s good graces that would give Florida another body in the front court.