No clarity with Walker, Murphy practicing

The wait will continue in Gainesville. Five-star forward Chris Walker continues to practice with the Gators, but he isn't cleared to play in games. The University of Florida continues to work with the NCAA to get the matter resolved, but Walker will not be on the floor when the Gators host Richmond for the non-conference finale on Saturday at 3 p.m.

"Still we haven't heard back yet," a noticeably frustrated Billy Donovan said on Friday. "It obviously was a hard time with the holidays with Christmas and New Year's, so they may be still in the process of working. What kind of time table there is, I really don't know."

There hasn't been much of an idea when Chris Walker would be eligible. Reports have surfaced from websites about when he would get back on the court, but none have been correct as the Gators continue to wait.

"When he got here in the middle of December, I was never given a timetable, never given a date, never given a game when he would be back," Donovan said. "It's one of those things where are school is working with the NCAA and I'm sure they'll come to some agreement on what will actually happen."

As Donovan was quick to point out on Friday, the biggest loser in all of this is Walker. He might not be able to help the Gators on the court in game, but he would at least be capable to be on the floor and get comfortable. However, Donovan did make it clear that he shouldn't be viewed as a team savior, especially on a team with a solid rotation of veterans that are playing well so far this year.

"He's not ready to play," Donovan said. "In fairness to him, he shouldn't be ready to play. It's one of those things where I want him to be ready to play for him. He's got a long, long way to go. His attitude has been good. He's picking things up. He's getting better. But he needs a few weeks of practice, at least. To take a guy out of high school that finished his last game in February and hasn't done anything competitively until December, it's almost been a year, and he's walking into a situation where everything is foreign and new to him, and he's missed so much strength and conditioning, he's missed practice, he's missed individual instruction.

"He's just so far behind. Like I said early, whenever his time comes and he's able to play, it's not like I have this expectation that all of a sudden this guy is going to come in here and totally change the complexion of our team. I don't see that happening. I want him to play because he's worked really hard to get here."

Duke transfer Alex Murphy also hit the practice floor recently, joining the Gators for his first practice on December 28. It gives the Gators another body in practice, and they've used it with only two games in the last two weeks before the start of conference play. Donovan's excited for the chance Murphy has. He doesn't have to spend practice time fighting and trying to get on the court. Instead, he can spend the rest of practice this season working on improvements to his own game.

"I think this will be a great two or three months for Alex, where he can just go in there and he's not worrying about playing time because he can't play," Donovan said. "He can worry about getting better."

The 6-8 forward isn't similar to his brother, former Florida forward Erik Murphy. Erik was more of a shooter and a stretch-four. Alex is more athletic and better at putting the ball on the floor.

"He doesn't shoot the ball like Erik does, although I think he's got potential to get better in that area," Donovan said. "He's much, much more skilled in terms of putting it on the floor and driving it, making plays. He's got really, really good vision. He can see. He's a big body. He's strong. We haven't put him in situations where he's had to play in and around the basket a lot. He's more of a perimeter player right now. Even though Alex has a lot to learn in terms of our system, there is an understanding and ability to have an idea of what's going on. There's certain things he's seeing.

"I think Alex has a chance to be a good player. I think this will be a really, really important second semester for him in terms of his growth and development to kind of carve a niche for himself in some way where he can be an effective player."

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