Florida freshman Chris Walker (USATSI)
One unintended consequence of the NCAA handing out hardship waivers to transfers at a record pace last offseason is that there are way fewer impact mid-year additions than usual this December.
Here's a look at the handful of significant players who become eligible for their new team at the end of the fall semester. The list begins with a key addition for Florida who isn't a transfer at all.
1. Chris Walker, F, Florida
Potential debut: TBD
Academic issues delayed Walker's debut at Florida until at least the end of fall semester. Walker has apparently done the requisite work in order to be eligible, so now the McDonald's All-American forward is awaiting confirmation from the NCAA Clearinghouse and from Florida's admissions department, which could arrive any day now. Whenever Walker does become eligible, his shot-blocking, freakish athleticism and dazzling ability to finish at the rim will add another dimension to Florida's frontcourt. With Damontre Harris off the team and seemingly unlikely to earn his way back, Walker should easily fill that void and provide a complement to Patric Young, Will Yeguete and Dorian Finney-Smith.
2. John Johnson, G, Penn State
Potential debut: Dec. 22 against Mount St. Mary's
There's no mystery when Johnson will be eligible to play this season. The Pittsburgh transfer changed his Twitter name to "December 22!!" months ago. What Penn State gets is a high-scoring combo guard capable of finishing at the rim or lighting it up from behind the arc. Johnson left Pittsburgh after playing in one exhibition game as a sophomore last fall when it became clear he wouldn't get the playing time he coveted. He'll probably come off the bench initially at Penn State behind star guards Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill, but don't be surprised to see the Nittany Lions go to some four-guard sets with Frazier, Newbill, Allen Roberts and Johnson.
3. Angel Nunez, F, Gonzaga
Potential debut: Dec. 21 against Kansas State
How much of an impact Nunez will make at Gonzaga remains a mystery because he didn't play enough at Louisville to showcase what he can do. The promising 6-foot-8 forward arrived at Louisville in 2011 amid comparisons to Francisco Garcia, but he averaged only 2.0 points and 0.7 rebounds as a freshman while stuck behind of log jam of talent on the wing. He sat out the first 10 games last season due to injury before opting to transfer. If Nunez has developed his game during his year-long absence he could see considerable time off the bench at both forward spots for the Zags. His length and athleticism on the perimeter will help, as will his ability to defend multiple positions.
4. Chrishawn Hopkins, G, Wright State
Potential debut: Sunday against Miami (Ohio)
As the rest of his former Butler teammates transitioned to the Atlantic 10 last winter, Hopkins stayed put in the Horizon League. The speedy 6-foot-1 junior was dismissed from the Butler program for an undisclosed team rules violation and eventually transferred to Wright State. Hopkins, who averaged 9.1 points per game during the 2011-12 season, brings an explosive first step and an ability to finish in the lane. Once he shakes off the rust from his year-long absence, he'll be counted on to help Wright State (5-6) bounce back from a mediocre start to the season and live up to its status as preseason Horizon League favorites.
5. Tyler Lamb, G, Long Beach State
Potential debut: Thursday against USC or Dec. 21 against Montana State Billings
Between its usual daunting schedule and its unusually shorthanded roster, Long Beach State's early-season struggles weren't hard to see coming. The 49ers are 1-9, though they have taken VCU and Washington to the wire and played competitively at North Carolina State. The addition of Lamb coupled with the start of Big West play should help the 49ers considerably. The UCLA transfer is a capable shooter and slasher who should guard the opposing team's best player and take some of the perimeter scoring pressure off point guard Mike Caffey. Lamb averaged 9.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists in a starting role as a sophomore at UCLA.
6. Brandan Kearney, F, Arizona State
Potential debut: Dec. 21 against Texas Tech
Unable to carve out more than a bit role for himself at Michigan State, Kearney left last December in search of a program where he could play more. The versatile 6-foot-5 wing chose Arizona State over a list of about 20 suitors. Kearney, who was averaging 2.3 points and 1.5 rebounds as a sophomore, can be a valuable role player for the Sun Devils in their quest for the NCAA tournament. He'll likely push Egor Koulechov and Shaquielle McKissic for minutes at small forward and could eventually usurp that starting job.
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