Christmas came early for Billy Donovan and his basketball team Saturday. Five-star freshman Chris Walker was admitted to Florida Saturday and began practicing with the No. 19 Gators.
Adam Silverstein of OnlyGators.com and Inside the Gators first reported the news Dec. 4 after months of questions surrounding Walker and his eligibility. Walker, the No. 1 forward and No. 6 overall prospect in the country, committed to Florida on July 22, 2012, but has since dealt with academic and admission concerns in relation to eventually playing for the Gators.
"Chris Walker has been admitted to UF and is eligible to practice, but is not yet eligible to compete," Florida announced in a statement this morning. "He will begin practicing with our team today."
Donovan has previously said there is no chance of Walker playing in Tuesday's game against No. 16 Memphis is New York City and that continues to be the case. Walker still must be cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse before he can play and his in-game debut could also be delayed by another factor.
According to Silverstein, Walker was part of an NCAA investigation that discovered a violation on the part of the director of Walker's AAU team. The director reportedly paid for an unofficial visit to Kansas for Walker. The NCAA may choose to force Walker to sit a few games because of the incident.
Silverstein also reported Walker has been told to not expect to see game action until the new year, though playing time could come sooner based on his performance in practice and the NCAA. Florida has three games remaining in 2013 against Memphis, Fresno State and Savannah State.
Richmond comes to Gainesville on Jan. 4 as the final game before Southeastern Conference play begins.
At 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds, Walker becomes the fourth McDonald's All-American on the Gators' current roster alongside Dorian Finney-Smith, Kasey Hill and Patric Young. He averaged 32 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks per game as a senior at Bonifay (Fla.) Holmes County High School.
Walker is now one of four players 6-foot-8 or taller on Florida's active roster.