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March 3, 2014

Notebook: Walker's minutes rely on opposition



Much-hyped freshman forward Chris Walker saw the floor for 14 minutes Saturday afternoon. He corralled six rebounds, blocked two shots, recorded a steal and scored two points. It was his best day as a Gator though not quite the kind of day you expect from a former No. 6-rated prospect with sooner-than-later professional aspirations.

But things are rarely status quo for Walker, who has averaged 5.4 minutes in his eight collegiate games since overcoming a lengthy NCAA-mandated suspension. Starting four forwards, LSU provided an opportunity for Walker.

"They've got a lot of weapons, but it's pretty easy for Chris. He's going to be playing post defense or he is going to be standing at the high post," Billy Donovan said after the game. "I think that was a good game for him where he could maybe inject some of his rebounding and athleticism and some of those things."

Initial reaction might be to assume Walker's escalated minutes against the Tigers will lead to a similar trend moving forward. That may hold true but it will have more to do with individual matchups than the general state of Walker as a player.

Walker is still learning, being introduced to schemes and defenses he hasn't seen. His 14 minutes against LSU showed that. So did his one minute the game before against Vanderbilt. In his first 18 minutes of action as a Gator, Walker committed 7 fouls. In the 25 minutes since, one foul.

"I can control the offensive part of him and what we're running and what we're doing. I can't control what the other team is running against him and what they're doing and whether or not he can handle that," Donovan said.

"Maybe some of his minutes have been eliminated because he's not equipped to handle some of the things he's going to need to handle. Now he's gotten better, but he's clearly not at the level of Dorian Finney-Smith and Patric Young and Will Yeguete and Casey Prather across our front line. And I think he can get there. How quickly he can get there, I don't know."

-- TRANSITIONING SUCCESS --

It's unnecessary and greedy to look ahead to 2014-2015 while the Gators are in the midst of the best regular season in school history, but it's also human nature in many instances.

That brings up the question of how and what the team's younger players are learning from Florida's unique core of veteran leaders. Unsurprisingly, it's a storyline that has yet to even hint at its payoff. Donovan referenced what players took from watching the '04s win back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.

Those guys thought that team was really good is because they thought they were just so talented and such great players, that's part of it, but there's also the chemistry, the teamwork, the relationship part, those things were extremely valuable," he said. "I'm not so sure our guys ever looked at it this way."

-- HOW CLOSE IS THIS TEAM? --

Young: "I believe we're a really tight team. We don't necessarily live together because I'm not going to call any names, but some of those guys are slobs. But this team this year has definitely taken a lot of steps as a whole just to be more connected and to know each other more in the meetings that coach Donovan has us have. It's just the steps we take to really be open and honest with each other and just to realize it's not about the individual; it's about the team and the common goal."


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