The Chris Walker saga is closing on its first month, with “Free Walker” hashtags popping up on Twitter from Florida fans eager to see the McDonald’s All-American freshman power forward hit the court.
To date, Walker has sat out six games since enrolling at UF. The 6-foot-10 forward from Bonifay has been practicing with the Gators since Dec. 16, but has yet to be cleared for competition by the NCAA, presumably due to his ties with AAU coach Matt Ramker. According to unconfirmed reports, Walker may have received financial assistance from Ramker in a recruiting visit. The NCAA and UF have refused to comment on specifics of the holdup, citing student privacy issues.
When asked about Walker on Monday, Donovan responded: “Right now, I have hope and optimism that a kid that has been totally forthright and honest and has given everything he possibly could, that you know, the NCAA will do the right thing, so to speak.
“I’m not involved with it. I said earlier, our administration, I totally trust them. I trust them to handle it. I think it’s probably one of those situations where you’ve got a very high-profile player that’s having to sit out and miss games. I’m not at liberty to talk about all the things that are going on with him, for one because I don’t know all those things and, two, it’s more of a school issue. It doesn’t really concern us as far as our coaching staff or our team. It’s stuff that our institution is handling, and you just have hope and optimism that the NCAA is going to sit there and say, you know what, this kid sat out some games. He’s been forthright, he’s been truthful and we’re going to get to a speedy decision on this thing.”
But Donovan said he’s received no indication from UF administrators that Walker will be available for the Gators on Tuesday night.
“When it will get decided, when it will happen, I don’t know,” Donovan said. “I know a lot of people want to find out. But the hardest part of it is, as we all mention, is that I think people look at different cases, situations in the NCAA, and a lot of times there’s different rulings on situations where ‘How come this guy got penalized more than this guy got penalized? This guy got nothing, this guy got this.’
“I think a lot of times, those are the things where it’s not just one standard. And the one theme has been, in my opinion, be truthful, be honest. And I think I can say at least from our school’s perspective, they feel like Chris has done that and that’s all we’re asking for.”