The status of Florida 6-foot-10 freshman forward Chris Walker remains up in the air heading into Florida’s Southeastern Conference opener against South Carolina.
“Our school, our administration, is dealing with the situation with the NCAA,” Donovan said. “The NCAA has allowed him to play and to practice. He has been admitted to school and started class today. All of that stuff is fine.”
When asked to clarify the NCAA allowing Walker to play, though, Donovan re-iterated that an NCAA clearance issue is keeping Walker from stepping on the court for competition.
“He had been admitted by the University of Florida, but now the NCAA in terms of his academics and eligibility, that’s in their hands now right now,” Donovan said. “So based on our admissions and what they looked at with his transcript and the work he’s done in August, September, October, November, academically, he made himself a qualifier. But in order for him to be eligible to play, the NCAA has to clear him all the way through on those things. I feel pretty good about his academic things.”
Donovan has downplayed the potential impact Walker, a former McDonald’s American and Class A Florida basketball player of the year, could have with the Gators as a freshman. Walker But Florida teammates say that Walker is adapting well in practice. Walker would add another frontcourt piece to complement Dorian Finney-Smith off the bench in case starters Patric Young, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather get in foul trouble. Walker has been practicing with the Gators since Dec. 16, but Donovan said he still needs time to adapt to UF’s system.
“He’s getting frustrated because he really wants to play,” Yeguete said. “You can see it in his eyes that he wants to get on the court and run around a little bit and just be out there, but he understands that it’s a process. We try to tell him every day to keep working and pray for the best and hopefully he’ll be out there soon.”
Asked what Walker could add to the team based on seeing him in practice, Yeguete said: “He’s really athletic. He can rebound the ball and he runs the floor really hard. He has a lot of energy, and I think when he can be out there, he’ll help us a lot.”