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January 21, 2014

Notebook: Donovan done talking about Walker



The Chris Walker mystery continues to grow, and now Billy Donovan has finally grown tired of talking about it.

Monday night, a report circulated from an Orlando television station that Walker, a freshman forward and former five-star prospect who has been on campus since Dec. 14 but has not yet been cleared by the NCAA for game action, would be cleared by Saturday's home game against Tennessee. UF immediately refuted the report, saying there is no update on Walker's eligibility situation.

Tuesday, Donovan did more refuting.

"I would just say this. As it relates to Chris, just listen to us and our school. I'm not going to address it anymore," Donovan said. "Certainly we're hopeful he gets back soon, but there's been no indication that there's any truth to that at all. Whenever he gets cleared, and certainly we all hope it's soon, believe me, I'm not going to throw a guy in a game and have him pop up and you guys not be aware of it. The minute he gets eligible, cleared and he's able to play, I'll let you know. Anything else that's out there about that is not true."

It was only the latest in a long line of reports and rumors surrounding Walker. After having his arrival at Florida delayed by academic issues, Walker has had his college debut repeatedly pushed back by other NCAA issues. Most reported is a situation in which Walker accepted improper benefits from former AAU coach Matt Ramker.

"The hardest part for me is I don't know all the details because it doesn't involve our institution," Donovan said. "I don't know all those details because when there's something going on like this, there's ethical conduct forms that are signed. That stuff has to be kept confidential, be kept between Chris and the NCAA, kept between our administration and the NCAA. I'm not involved in any of those conversations. I trust our administration and what they're doing. Hopefully it will be resolved in a timely fashion."

Throughout the process, Donovan has downplayed what the addition of Walker to his team would mean. Talented but raw, Walker has found a major learning curve in store for him since joining the No. 6 Gators (15-2, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) in practice.

"It's been a humbling experience for him. When I say humbling, humbling in a positive way," Donovan said earlier this month. "He obviously wants to play. There is no question about it. But I also think he's looking at it like, 'Wow. I can get better through this. Maybe I'm not quite ready to play yet and this would be a good time for me to improve."

-- OLD TROUBLES CREEPING BACK --

When the season got started, one of Donovan's biggest complaints about his team was a certain difficulty guarding the 3-point line. Those problems went away as the Gators got into the heart of their non-conference schedule, but they've recently started to come out of hiding.

In four Southeastern Conference games, opponents are shooting 44.6 percent from beyond the arc against Florida. Worth noting is that outside of Arkansas' 24-shot afternoon, no SEC opponent has shot more than 13 3-pointers in a game against the Gators.

"We've come off help a little bit too much. We've fallen asleep on a couple of screening actions. The one thing that has been good is we haven't had that game where we've given up 10, 11, 12," Donovan said. "The percentage has not been great, but I also think teams' average number of 3s that they're taking before they play us, that number is down; they're not taking as many against us, which is a good thing."

-- STILL THE BEST --

After dealing with a serious bone bruise and significant swelling on his right knee, Casey Prather was supposed to take some time to return to playing like the guy who has led Florida's offense all season.

So much for that.

Prather was the biggest reason the Gators were able to win an ugly game at Auburn in which every without a No. 24 on his jersey seemed to have an off day. Prather took over, scoring 16 points in the first half and 21 overall.

"He's playing to that identity. He's slashing to the basket, he's getting to the free throw line, he's offensive rebounding, he's getting out in transition (and) he's taking pull-up, mid-range jump shots," Donovan said. "He hasn't taken a lot of threes but when they're wide open and they're there, he's going to take them. So I think he's kind of played to his identity and that's kind of helped him."


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