Walker in limbo as UF classes begin


Published: Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 11:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 11:04 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida coach Billy Donovan said that senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin is working back into good graces with the team, while the status of incoming freshman McDonald’s All-American forward Chris Walker remains murky.

Donovan said he could not speak specifically about the 6-foot-10 Walker due to NCAA rules. His letter of intent is now null and void because he was not in school in the first day of UF classes on Wednesday.

“All I can say is that he’s not enrolled,” Donovan said before a Capital Area Gator Club gathering on Thursday. “What allows me to talk and communicate about these guys is when they are signed.”

Technically, Walker is now classified as a UF commitment and could be re-recruited by other schools. But a source close to Walker said he still wants to complete his coursework to meet NCAA academic eligibility requirements to enroll at UF. Walker himself tweeted that over the summer that he was looking forward to getting coaching from the Gators.

Walker can re-sign his letter of intent once he becomes academically eligible. He has until the end of a drop-add period on Aug. 27 to enroll for the fall semester. Otherwise, he could sign for the spring semester. He is still not listed on UF’s official roster on the school’s website.

Donovan said Wilbekin “has made strides discipline-wise” over the summer. He remains suspended from the team but will be allowed to work out with coaches separately from the team at the Florida men’s basketball facility.

“He’s just going to classes and around his class schedule, different times, we’ll work with him, and spend time with him,” Donovan said. “But in terms of him being back with the team this fall semester, he’s not back with the team.”

Donovan said Wilbekin’s suspension “could and probably will” involve game time to start the 2013-14 season. A Gainesville native and former Rock School standout, Wilbekin was suspended in early June for an unspecified violation of team rules, his second suspension in the span of eight months. In his first suspension, Wilbekin sat out three games to start the 2012-13 season.

“I’m not so sure when he’ll actually be back because there are things he has to do in order to prove that he wants to be part of our team right now,” Donovan said. “Up to this point in time, to his credit, he’s done everything that he’s said he would do and he’s committed to doing.”

Donovan said he still has not received official word on if Rutgers transfer guard Eli Carter will receive a waiver to play right away at UF this season. But Donovan said even if Carter was cleared, he is still concerned about the health status of the 6-foot-3 guard. Carter is still recovering from a broken leg he suffered last February during his sophomore season at Rutgers. The injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.

“Even if he is cleared to play, the bigger question right now is when he is going to be cleared to play medically,” Donovan said. “And that’s not on the horizon right now. That’s going to take a little bit of time, I think.”

Donovan received a standing ovation as he was introduced during the gathering. He spoke for about 15 minutes before taking questions.

In his opening remarks, Donovan recognized former UF president Stephen C. O’Connell’s widow, Cynthia, and talked about the fund drive in place to renovate the O’Connell Center. The Gators plan to start a $50 million renovation of UF’s home basketball and multi-sport arena next June.

“When it was built, it was a state-of-the-art facility, but now it’s 33 years old,” Donovan said. “It’s time to upgrade it.”

Donovan also said that senior forward Will Yeguete is progressing in rehabilitation from offseason surgery to repair knee cartilage.

“We’re hopeful he’ll be back in time for fall practice,” Donovan said. “We’re not quite sure yet.”

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