Gators awaiting answers about newcomers

The Gators have important returning players for the 2013-14 season, but there are still plenty of question marks on the roster about incoming players. Florida head coach Billy Donovan returned earlier this week from leading the U19 USA Basketball team to a gold medal, and he's now turning his focus to the Florida roster. We'll start with a look at the newcomers to the roster this year.

The central questions remains around five-star forward Chris Walker. While classmate Kasey Hill is enrolled and going through workouts, the Gators are waiting to get a ruling from the NCAA on when or if Walker will be eligible.

"We're hopeful that it will be sooner than later," Donovan said. "He's still got some work ahead of him, but he's trying hard to get that finished."

Regardless of what happens, Walker has been clear with the Florida coaches that he wants to play college basketball in Gainesville.

"The one thing I feel like with Chris in just talking with him is his commitment to Florida and wanting to be here," Donovan said. "He wants to make that happen. He's got some things that he needs to do. I think the one thing that we've tried to explain to him is that the work that he's doing, he doesn't need to rush it. He just needs to get it done correctly and the right way. I think he's working hard to try to make sure that happens."

Walker would add another big body

TRANSFERS READY TO PLAY: The newcomers include two transfers. Even though Damontre Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith went through classes at Florida last season, they'll finally be able to get on the court during games this year.

Billy Donovan called last season a "wasted year" for Harris. The coaching staff was excited about working with him during the season he had to sit out, but Harris dislocated his shoulder early in his time at Florida and needed surgery that kept him off the practice court until late in the spring. That also kept him from giving Patric Young a defensive challenge in practice.

Harris is a shot blocker

After Harris came back in the middle of February from the shoulder surgery, he immediately dealt with a high ankle sprain. Soon after, it was strep throat that was bothering him and had him on antibiotics for six weeks.

"We're trying to make up for some lost time right now because we get these two hours a week to work our guys out to try to get him back doing things," Donovan said.

Finney-Smith was able to practice with the team last year, and he's excited to play in games this season. Donovan was quick to slow some of the expectations on him heading into this year. He compared it to Vernon Macklin's situation since both were highly recruited players.

Donovan said Macklin was portrayed as the "savior in our frontcourt" before he was eligible.

"When guys transfer and people are sitting out, the legend of those guys grows to an enormity and size that is probably not really reality," Donovan said.

He was quick to say he was excited about what Finney-Smith can bring to the team this year but wants to make sure expectations are realistic.

"When you see a guy like (Finney-Smith) who was a McDonald's All-American and plays one year at Virginia Tech, averaged 10 points and eight rebounds per game and had a year to sit out, those expectations can really grow," Donovan said. "I told him he can't worry about that. He's got to do what he's got to do to help our team. He has been good.

"The year last year was really good for him in the fact that he stayed healthy and has a better understanding about what we're doing."

CARTER HOPING FOR CLEARANCE: Transfer guard Eli Carter is in the process of writing a letter to the NCAA and Rutgers about why he should be immediately eligible. Donovan said he hasn't been in contact with Rutgers but expects the letter to be completed and submitted soon.

"Because there's different players probably applying for this kind of waiver, I'm assuming Rutgers is going to handle it collectively as one group when they deal with the NCAA," Donovan said. "But I have not heard anything either way in terms of him being denied or actually say that this is going to happen."

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