Florida hoping for Walker clearance

As Florida continues to wait on the NCAA to make a decision on Chris Walker, the freshman forward continues to work into shape to play this season. Walker has been on campus in Gainesville for over a month and is getting more comfortable learning what the Gators do on both sides of the ball. No. 3 Florida is waiting for clearance to use the McDonald's All-American in a game.

"He's more prepared then he was a couple weeks ago," Florida coach Billy Donovan said on Monday. "I think the biggest adjustment he's made is just having a better feel for what we're doing defensively and offensively."

It took some time for Chris Walker to get comfortable. He hasn't played in an official game since winning a state championship as a senior in high school and was forced to learn 60 different offensive sets that the Gators use. He came to Gainesville without knowledge of one of the sets.

He's now getting settled in what Florida wants to do on both sides of the ball, but that's not all. The freshman has also added an understanding of how to take care of his body off the court. He came to Gainesville at 203 pounds and has gained 10 pounds of muscle since enrolling in classes at Florida.

"There are certain concepts and things that he's got to get under his belt which he's done a better job of figuring out and improving on," Donovan said. "We're spending a lot of extra time with him. I think he's getting stronger too just being on a consistent weight training program has been good."

It's less clear when he will get on the court during a game. The Associated Press reported on Monday that Walker is expected to be cleared this week, but the reporter wasn't clear if it would come before Florida travels to play at Mississippi State on Thursday at 7 p.m.

When he is cleared, Donovan said on Monday that he would be playing in the next game. He's comfortable enough to let Walker play now, adding that he wouldn't take a redshirt this season.

"I'm sure he'll be very anxious and nervous and excited," Donovan said. "How many minutes we could actually get out of him, I'm not really sure. But he's a really, really good kid that's worked hard and he's eager to learn and get better. I appreciate just the way he's handled himself in a very difficult situation."

While the Gators wait, Donovan continues to do his best to downplay the expectations. The Florida fan base has rallied around Walker, chanting his name multiple times during the Gators' win over Tennessee on Saturday. Donovan wants to make sure fans know what to expect when Walker does get on the floor.

He has seen expectations grow out of control in the past. When transfer players are forced to sit out one season before NCAA rules allow them to play, the expectations grew. For Vernon Macklin, Mike Rosario and recently Dorian Finney-Smith, Donovan saw fan and media expectations that exceeded a player's skill set.

And that's his warning as Walker could reportedly get on the court at some point soon. He doesn't want expectations to be too high.

"My biggest fear for Chris is you have a highly explosive player and sometimes when the guy's not playing, the legend of Chris Walker grows greater than who he really actually is," Donovan said. "It's the same thing with Doe-Doe last year. He's sitting out, and everyone's talking about this guy like he's Magic Johnson. Chris Walker now, it's like this guy is going to end up being Kevin Garnett. He's not that. If that's your expectation of Chris Walker, then you're going to be very, very disappointed because he's not that.

"My biggest fear is there's a level of anticipation or excitement whenever he gets cleared to play, but I hope that there is at least a level of understanding in terms of how much he's missed coming in to where he's coming in and if anybody's expecting him to be a savior, it would really be unfair."

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