Notebook: Donovan awaits word on Walker's eligibility


Florida coach Billy Donovan is back in Gainesville after leading Team USA under-19 team to a gold medal.

Aundre Larrow/Correspondent
Published: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 4:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 5:57 p.m.

As two of Florida’s frontcourt veterans recover from offseason surgeries, coach Billy Donovan is hoping one incoming freshman’s academic status will also see improvement this summer.

With 43 days left before UF’s fall semester begins, Gators signee Chris Walker is still working on meeting the NCAA’s eligibility requirements to enroll at Florida. A 6-foot-10 McDonald’s All-American, Walker has been taking online courses this summer but needs a 2.6 GPA to gain admission.

“I haven’t heard anything back yet,” Donovan said Wednesday. “Obviously, he’s not here in Summer B. He’s still working towards finishing up. However long that’s going to take I’m not sure, because he’s going to have to go through the (NCAA) Clearinghouse and still get cleared.”

Heading into this season, Walker is slated to join a deep frontcourt featuring seniors Patric Young, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather as well as transfers Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris. In April, Young underwent surgery to remove a bone spur in his right ankle, while Yeguete had arthroscopic surgery in May to clean up damaged tissue in his right knee.

Walker’s fellow Class of 2013 signee Kasey Hill, a 6-foot-1 guard, enrolled at Florida for Summer B classes in late June.

A consensus top-10 prospect, Walker led Bonifay Holmes County to its first state title in his senior season by averaging 25 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks per game at the FHSAA Finals. For his efforts, Walker was named the Class 1A Florida Dairy Farmers Player of the Year.

“He may or may not be here for the fall semester,” Donovan said. “The one thing that we’ve tried to explain to him in the work that he’s finishing up in doing is he doesn’t need to rush it. He just needs to do it correctly and the right way.”

Wilbekin’s status

After being suspended for the second time in less than a year, Scottie Wilbekin is not seeing much leeway from the UF coaching staff this summer.

Florida announced on June 10 that Wilbekin was banned from the Gators’ practice facility for a violation of team rules — the same explanation given for his three-game suspension to open last season.

“This is not a situation where this is going to be something that's all of the sudden going to be a quick-fix suspension,” Donovan said. “This isn't one of those things where I say, ‘OK, this guy is suspended, and all of the sudden he’s back here in the middle of Summer B.’ The rest of the summer, he’s not a part of our team.”

Donovan said a possible return date for Wilbekin, who averaged a team-high 4.9 assists per game last season, won’t be decided until the two speak after the fall semester begins.

While Wilbekin is left to train on his own this offseason, Florida is looking to Rutgers transfer Eli Carter to add immediate depth to the backcourt.

The 6-foot-3 guard is awaiting an approval letter from his former school to apply for a waiver with the NCAA. Carter, who averaged 14.9 points per game as a sophomore, is hoping to play this season for the Gators. He transferred to Florida, following the player abuse scandal at Rutgers that led to the April 3 dismissal of former Scarlet Knights coach Mike Rice.

“I have not been in contact with them at all,” Donovan said. “I know there's been several players from Rutgers that are transferring. I know a lot of those guys are looking for the opportunity, wherever they transfer to, to play right away. Whether or not that happens, I really don't personally have a feel. All that Eli can do is make an appeal that he would like to play right away.”

Gold standard

After coaching USA Basketball’s under-19 team to a world championship in Prague on Sunday, Donovan improved to a 14-0 record in international competition.

Florida sophomore guard Michael Frazier II was also on the team and averaged 6.7 points and 3.1 rebounds in nine games. Though he was held scoreless, Frazier managed to grab six rebounds in Team USA’s 82-68 win over Serbia in the gold medal game.

Donovan, who now has a pair of gold medals, said he is open to working with the team again.

“I find it very, very refreshing and rejuvenating,” Donovan said. “Like I said earlier, when they asked me to do this, there’s probably a lot of other coaches they could have asked to do it. If they want me to do something in the future, I’d be more than happy to help any way I can.”

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