Posted: 2:55 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013
By Andy Hutchins
When, in the course of Internet events, things get so hectic as to require a single post about Florida basketball that stands in for what could've been several posts split up, that post shall be called Around the World.
Florida signee Chris Walker remains the biggest-name recruit from the 2013 recruiting cycle to not swap "signee" for "freshman," and there's been no update of note to his status. Read this tweet one way, and it's really promising...
Can't wait too get to Uf soon n get this coaching n training , gonna be a good season this year #Gatornation !— Chris Walker (@cwalkertime23) August 7, 2013
...but recognize that Walker's also telling the world that he's not yet at Florida, and it's a little frustrating.
Walker's academic saga was best detailed in Gary Parrish's June story that showed how adverse his living conditions really were:
Walker's father has forever been non-existent.
His mother essentially abandoned him years ago.
He has spent his high school years living with a guardian named Jeneen Campbell and attending one of the state of Florida's smallest public schools, mostly because he wanted to be loyal to the woman who was loyal to him. Walker could've transferred to any of the fancy basketball academies at any time over the past few years, and he would've probably benefited academically from it. But when you've been left by the adults whose top responsibility is to never leave you, it must be difficult to then turn around and leave the one adult who didn't. So Walker stayed with Campbell and at Holmes County High.
The result of that is this.
And it's obviously hard not to feel for Walker, who's both not far and very far from fulfilling one of his dreams. It seems pretty clear at this point that he's not going to be eligible as of next week, when he would enroll for the fall semester, but I've been told that he could be eligible in December (students can register for UF's Spring 2014 term beginning in November), which might get him on the court for Florida's rugged stretch of games against Connecticut, Kansas, and Memphis.
The worst-case scenario, though, is Walker not getting eligible in December, and thus not for the spring. That might prompt him to think about leaving for the NBA, where he's a projected lottery pick, before ever suiting up for the Gators. If Walker does get eligible, it might make more sense for him to stay for the 2014-15 season, at least, as he's going to get a taste of what he can be at the college level, and learn better what he needs to work on to make it as a pro.
The best thing we, as fans, can do? Hope.
Scottie Wilbekin's suspension of indefinite length for a violation of team rules is still in place, and Billy Donovan said back in July that Wilbekin has a "road to hoe" in terms of getting his place back. But Rivals' Adam Silverstein reported ($) in late July that Wilbekin will be suspended for the first six games of Florida's 2013-14 schedule.
No one will say anything definitive about this out loud, but that still sounds like the penalty for a third violation of Florida's drug policy to me, as six games would be roughly 20 percent of Florida's regular season. Of the first six non-exhibition games, the only truly tough ones are a road trip to Wisconsin in the second game of the year — and Florida beat Wisconsin soundly without Wilbekin in 2012 — and a home date against Southern and sniper Malcolm Miller, who threw a scare into Gonzaga as a No. 16 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Florida's also better-equipped to handle Wilbekin's absence than it was in 2012-13, with Kasey Hill stepping in as a true point guard with physical tools that match or better Wilbekin's and a fuller frontcourt available to bang down low. The Gators could obviously still use Wilbekin, as his defense is among the best from an individual and team standpoint in college basketball, but I think this suspsension is likely to give Hill a chance to flourish in practice and on the court, and, in turn, demonstrate that Wilbekin needs Florida a fair bit more than Florida needs him. If that can help him keep his head on straight and his nose clean, it will probably be a better outcome down the road.
We still don't know whether Rutgers transfer Eli Carter has even sent in a waiver to the NCAA in search of a ruling making him eligible to play at Florida in 2013-14 after leaving Piscataway this spring. But we do know that one of Carter's teammates has had a similar waiver granted.
Mike Poole, who transferred from Rutgers to Iona, had his waiver granted last week, and will be eligible to play for the Gaels in 2013-14, his senior year. Poole also doesn't have the mitigating circumstances that Carter, still on the path back from a broken leg, does.
As such, it seems likely that Carter could apply for and receive a waiver, and be another part of a loaded 2013-14 Florida team that adds Hill, Dorian Finney-Smith, Damontre Harris, and, hopefully, Walker, to a core of seniors comprised of Patric Young, Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, and Casey Prather that got plenty of help from freshman sharpshooter Michael Frazier II in 2012-13.
That depth, however, could be the reason that Carter chooses not to apply for a waiver: He's going to find it difficult to break into a backcourt featuring Hill, Wilbekin, Frazier, and Dillon Graham even at full strength. And if Carter takes a year off, rehabs fully and slowly, and works himself back into shape, he can follow the path previously taken by Mike Rosarioand get a more favorable rotation for getting big minutes in 2014-15.
I don't think Carter, who profiles as a shooter/scorer in the vein of Rosario and Kenny Boynton, needs to be part of the 2013-14 team for that team to have legitimate Final Four aspirations; it would just be nice. But I couldn't blame Carter for choosing to pass up immediate eligibility in the hopes of getting a more advantageous set of circumstances.
Florida getting a commitment from Chris Chiozza back in April was presumed to be a big step toward landing big man Leron Black, Chiozza's fellow Memphis boy and AAU teammate. That won't be the case: Black eliminated Florida (and Memphis) on Wednesday, and now appears to be leaning to Illinois.
That's a blow to Florida's recruiting efforts, especially since the Gators appear to be on the outside for most other big-time big men in the 2014 class. One big Florida still has a shot with is Abdul-Malik Abu, who visited Florida on Wednesday. Abu is expected to announce his college decision in September, and both Providence and Connecticut look to have better shots at him, given their proximity to the New Hampshire prospect, but Florida's in the running.
If Abu chooses to stay in New England, though, Florida's big man board may be rather skinny. The Gators will keep pursuing Kevon Looney and Justise Winslow, but both forwards are less big man than big wing, and so Donovan may need to work more magic on the transfer market to ensure Florida has a big other than Harris — Young will graduate after this year, and Chris Walker is obviously not a sure bet to stay beyond the spring — to throw on the court next year.
We'll have a fuller breakdown of the Florida non-conference schedule when I'm not working out of a library, but it's fully out now, with times and locations and everything. Here are the five things you need to know.
The story of Zach Hodskins, one-handed hooper, is very cool. So is Florida offering him a preferred walk-on spot. I doubt anything comes of it, with Hodskins far more likely to get a scholarship offer at a lower-tier school, but it's a good gesture from the coaching staff that associates Florida with a great story, and so it's very smart.
You'll enjoy Hodskins's highlights:
I disagree pretty strenuously with Eamonn Brennan on Patric Young having a future in football, even if Young does admittedly look at home on the field.
But though Young looks gawky and stiff running routes and with the ball, and gets absolutely dusted by Trey Burton at the line as a defensive back, and screws up running an option pretty badly, this is still a positive sign, because he's running about as well as he ever has just a few months after ankle surgery.
And, additionally, the video's funny, and showcases the fun things a big-time player who comes to Florida and makes use of his education — Young is a telecom major who will almost certainly work in TV after his professional playing days are done — can do. It's marketing Young as fun and Florida as open to fun, and that's part of creating an atmosphere recruits and fans alike want to buy into.
Joakim Noah took part in Steve Nash's charity soccer match in New York City in July. He also scored a goal, and celebrated in typical Jo style.
I'll love that goofy dude forever.