Florida Basketball: Challenges Chris Walker Will Face in Partial 2013-14 Season
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
When the book is written on the 2013-14 Florida basketball season, it could be about a magical run that happened with Chris Walker as more of a bystander than a star.
Walker is the McDonald's All-American big man who it has long been expected would not start the season with the Gators. That expectation became a reality on Tuesday when Walker was still not enrolled on the final day Florida students are allowed to add classes. CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish reported that a source told the site that Walker should enroll and be eligible in December.
If any team in the country can handle the loss of a big-time prospect, it's the Gators. They have at least four quality options to start alongside Patric Young in undersized 4-men Will Yeguete and Casey Prather or transfers Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris.
With or without Walker, the Gators are going to be pretty good.
So the one concern Walker and Billy Donovan should have is: Is he going to fit in once he is eligible?
In theory, Walker should be a big part of what the Gators do in the SEC and in March. He might be the most talented big man on the roster.
But Walker's situation is reminiscent of another can't-miss prospect who was forced to sit out nine games as a freshman: former Kansas guard Josh Selby.
Selby was the top-ranked player in his class in 2010 by Rivals.com. As Selby sat out the first nine games that season for the Jayhawks, he watched his teammates get out to a perfect start. The offense was humming, built around the Morris twins.
According to Parrish's report, Walker could be available for the Gators as soon as Dec. 17 against Memphis, which would be, coincidentally, Florida's 10th game of the season.
Once Selby was allowed to play in mid-December in a home game against USC, it could not have gone better. He nailed five threes including the game-winner on a day the rest of his teammates struggled.
Selby had a few more games where he showed his potential (18 points against Cal and Miami (Ohio) and 17 in a win at Colorado) but he never really found his place in KU's offense. The Jayhawks also played with a bit of one-upmanship when Selby would get on the floor.
After a mid-season foot injury, Selby never regained his starting spot and played behind Brady Morningstar, a better passer and better fit alongside the Morris twins. Morningstar was not as talented, but he was the best fit for that particular team.
Selby went 1-for-5 in 15 quiet minutes in his final game as a Jayhawk—a surprising Elite Eight loss to VCU—then booked it to the NBA. His career is rather forgettable, just like his performance in that game.
That's not to say that is the fate destined for Walker. Judging by Selby's NBA career, he could have been overrated as a high schooler. Selby was drafted, however, and based on the workouts that got him drafted and a handful of productive games that one year in Lawrence, there's proof that he had talent. He just didn't fit in.
Walker could come into a similar spot. He will miss games against Wisconsin, Florida State, Connecticut and Kansas.
Who will start the most games for Florida this season?
If the Gators are humming along to a hot start—and it will be legit against that schedule—there will be questions as to how Walker fits in the lineup. Maybe Young plays better with a stretch-4 like Finney-Smith, or Florida's full-court press is more dangerous with Yeguete.
It's also a possibility that Walker could be the one missing piece. Former Syracuse point guard Billy Edelin is another highly-rated prospect who had to wait to start his career. Edelin was suspended from Syracuse his first year and then missed the first 12 games his freshman season because of an odd NCAA ruling.
Edelin was never a star for the Orange that year, but he was a key piece as the sixth man on a national title team. He even scored 12 points and had three steals in the championship game against Kansas.
Walker is a great talent and Florida could have a towering and intimidating frontline when he teams with Young. Or, Walker could have trouble fitting in. No one should assume that he'll be a starter and fit in swimmingly because of how highly he was ranked as a high schooler.
Just ask Bill Self and Selby.
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