Walker returning for sophomore season at Florida

Florida forward Chris Walker does the Gator Chomp during practice for the Final Four at AT&T Stadium on Friday in Arlington, Texas. Walker announced on Twitter on Wednesday that he will be returning for another season.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 4:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 4:35 p.m.

Florida received some early good news this offseason when freshman forward Chris Walker announced Wednesday he'll return for his sophomore year.

Walker announced the decision on his Twitter account (@cwalkertime23), saying, “This year has been a great one, and I'm happy to say I will be joining the gatornation again for one more year!”

Barring an unforeseen injury, it likely will turn out to be a smart move. The 6-foot-10 forward from Bonifay was projected as a late first-round pick on some NBA mock draft websites, based strictly on potential. Unable to play until Feb. 4 due to academic and NCAA issues, Walker averaged just 1.9 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.8 minutes per game.

“I think physically and mentally it was important for him to come back,” ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale said. “I think no question another year will help him become a more polished player. I'm glad he was smart enough to make that decision.”

With a full offseason of strength and conditioning, Walker should be prepared to make a more significant impact as a sophomore. During UF's Final Four run, Walker showed flashes of his athletic potential, finishing with a career-high seven points, three rebounds and one blocked shot off the bench in the Gators' 79-68 Sweet 16 win over UCLA.

Florida loses four senior starters from a team that won a school-record 36 games (36-3) and reached the Final Four for the fifth time in school history. Walker could easily win one of those starting jobs, either at center for Patric Young or at power forward for Will Yeguete (if the Gators decide to start South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris at center).

Walker and freshman point guard Kasey Hill could give the Gators two former McDonald's All Americans in the starting lineup next season. Other key returning players next season will include sophomore shooting guard Michael Frazier II, sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith and sophomore forward DeVon Walker.

The last Gator player to leave school after his freshman season was guard Bradley Beal, who was taken third overall by the Washington Wizards in the 2012 NBA draft. The only other one-and-done Gator under current coach Billy Donovan was forward Donnell Harvey, who was picked 22nd in the first round by the New York Knicks. Harvey spent parts of three seasons in the NBA but has spent the majority of his basketball career playing overseas.

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