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Guard and leading scorer Walter Clayton plans to return to Gators for senior season

GAINESVILLE — Florida shooting guard Walter Clayton Jr. will return for his senior season after leading the Gators in scoring and helping them to their first NCAA tournament bid since 2021.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound combo guard explored his professional options, including a trip to the G League Elite Camp, where he averaged 15.5 points in two games. But the native of Lake Wales decided another season at UF was in his best interest.

Clayton, a transfer from St. John’s University, led the Gators with an average of 17.6 points to earn All-SEC honors as Todd Golden’s squad averaged a program-record 85.6 points. Clayton finished with a team-leading 15 games of at least 20 points, culminating with a 33-point effort during a 102-100 loss to Colorado to open the NCAA tournament.

His 42 consecutive free throws made are tied for first in school history.

Veteran wing Will Richard announced Friday he would return for his senior season in Gainesville. The 6-foot-5, 206-pound Richard averaged 11.4 points and 3.9 rebounds, had a career-high 70 3-point field goals and scored 20 points six times. But his shooting percentage dipped to 41.1% from 49.3%, including 34.5% from 3-point range after shooting 39.8% in 2022-23.

Clayton and Richard give Golden two veterans to lean on. Post players Alex Condon Jr. and Thomas Haugh also were key contributors as freshmen.

Meanwhile, the Gators lured three key transfers: Florida Atlantic guard Alijah Martin, former Chattanooga forward Sam Alexis of Apopka and 6-foot-11 Washington State center Rueben Chinyelu. Shooting guard Isaiah Brown of Orlando Christian Prep will join the Gators as a first-year freshman.

Edgar Thompson can be reached at egthompson@orlandosentinel.com