Notebook: Walker finds role


Florida's DeVon Walker, right, defends Savannah State's Alante Fenner during their game on Sunday.

Brad McClenny/Staff Photographer
Published: Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 12:37 a.m.

After nearly transferring during the offseason, Florida forward DeVon Walker was hopeful to prove he deserved more playing time as a sophomore.

Walker continued to make his case Sunday, finishing with 8 points and 7 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench in UF's 76-34 win over Savannah State.

“I feel like I'll have some kind of role,” Walker said. “I don't know exactly what it is. But I feel like I can contribute in some kind of way, even if it's cheering on my teammates.”

Walker provided a lift for the Gators early, starting UF's first six games as Florida dealt with a myriad of injuries and suspensions to start the season.

But the 6-foot-6 forward from Winter Haven suffered a sprained foot that sidelined him for two of UF's next three games.

“He really got set back with his foot sprain,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

“He came back, he got tentative. I think he was pressing a little bit, guys are starting to come back healthy, how do I fit in, pressing a lot in practice. I would say the two days before we left for (Christmas) break and then these last three days he's been very good where I think he's identifying what his role is.

“I trust him. He's playing really hard, he's getting better. He gives us perimeter shooting and I think he can be without question a rotational guy for us.”

Walker said it was tougher mentally than physically to come back from his foot sprain. But Walker showed signs of being more comfortable with a mixed offensive game. After draining a corner 3-point attempt in the first half, Walker got to the free-throw line five times in the second half, making three by drawing contact on drives to the basket.

Walker had worked on corner 3-point shots during pregame warmups.

“That's an open shot a lot in basketball, from the pro level to the college level and the high school level,” Walker said. “So, that's a shot I want to take.'

Chris Walker remains in limbo

Donovan would not confirm or deny a report from GatorCountry's Franz Beard that Chris Walker will be cleared by the NCAA and UF administration for UF's next game Saturday against Richmond.

“Boy I would be happy about that, but I have not heard that report,” Donovan said. “That would be great. I certainly hope so, but I have not heard anything from our school at all about that. They haven't told me that he's not able to play in that game either.”

Walker, recent Duke transfer Alex Murphy, Eli Carter (medical redshirt, broken leg) and Dillon Graham (medical redshirt, hip surgery) all were on the UF bench in sweats for the Savannah State game. Murphy will begin practicing with the Gators next week and Walker has been practicing with the Gators since Dec. 16.

“Having Chris Walker in practice and having Alex Murphy here now, it's the first time we have had a legitimate 10 guys that we can really practice with and bang against, so I'm really excited about that,” Donovan said. “When you're in those situations, you have a better chance of growing and getting better.”

Etc.

Former Gator guard Mike Rosario was among the announced crowd of 10,508. … 2015 UF commitment Kevarrius Hayes (6-8 forward, Live Oak, Suwanee High) also was at the game. Hayes has averaged 26.5 points, 19 rebounds and 6.5 blocks over his last two high school games. …. Florida notched its 22nd straight home win, its second-longest home win streak in school history. Florida's longest home win streak is 24 games from March 1, 2006 to Nov. 23, 2007.

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