Unlike most incoming freshmen basketball players who are already enrolled in summer classes, Florida's Chris Walker has yet to make it to campus.
In fact, there's still some question if the 6-foot-9 forward will be academically eligible to don a Gators uniform at all next season.
Walker, Rivals.com's No. 6 prospect in the class of 2013, has yet to achieve a qualifying ACT score and is still taking three online courses to finish his core requirements, his high school coach told the Gainesville Sun earlier this week. NCAA initial eligibility is based on a sliding scale combining test scores and GPA in core courses, but the minimum GPA required is a 2.0 and the minimum ACT score is a 37.
"He’s a little frustrated, but he knows in order to live out his childhood dream that he needs to keep working hard at it," Bonifay coach Poe White told the Sun. "If he doesn’t make it, it won’t be for a lack of trying."
It sounds as though the best-case scenario for Florida would be if Walker achieved a qualifying ACT score on his most recent attempt and finishes his online classes by the end of June. That would enable him to enroll in the second summer session at Florida and begin building chemistry with his teammates and participating in individual and team workouts.
Florida appeared to be a near-certain top 10 team once Patric Young opted to return for his senior season but Walker's eligibility issues and point guard Scottie Wilbekin's indefinite suspension calls that into question.
In Walker's case, the good news is Florida has an abundance of frontcourt options. Young and forward Will Yeguete are set to return next season and transfers Damontre Harris (South Carolina) and Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech) will both be able to contribute after sitting out last season.
Nonetheless, there's no denying Florida would lose some of its explosiveness if a player with Walker's length, athleticism and ability to finish at the rim can't play.
With Walker, Florida has the talent to challenge Kentucky in the SEC and reach the Final Four after three straight Elite Eight setbacks. Without him, both goals become a bit more unlikely.
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