Walker getting comfortable for Florida

The Gators were settled on their rotation and didn't need any additions. They had won 13 straight games when freshman Chris Walker was cleared, but some players are too talented to keep away. Florida coach Billy Donovan has had a unique situation the last two games, trying to get a freshman accustomed to college basketball in the middle of the Southeastern Conference schedule.

Walker played seven minutes in his collegiate debut against Missouri and was on the court for just four minutes against Alabama. The difference, according to Billy Donovan on Monday, was the opposition. The Crimson Tide switched defenses frequently on Saturday, and Donovan didn't want his five-star freshman on the court and trying to make decisions against zone defenses he wasn't prepared to face.

So he sat Walker.

But it wasn't an indictment of where the freshman is in his development. The Florida coaching staff used Sunday to catch Walker up on the smaller details of what he's expected to do against complex defenses. Before Sunday, Donovan told Walker not to worry much about the details. He didn't want the freshman to get overwhelmed and be slowed by his heading spinning while trying to figure out what to do. The hope is that Sunday's lesson will help Walker going forward.

"I think he can get better when things start to become less thinking and more reacting for him," Donovan said about Chris Walker. "That probably takes away some of his athleticism, some of his abilities. The more he gets comfortable, he can impact the game more athletically with his running, shot-blocking, rebounding.

"We're slowly starting to add some things where he's getting a better background. I do think he's going to be able to help our team and continue to play more and more minutes."

The freshman's addition has also given the Gators a true frontcourt rotation. With Will Yeguete and Patric Young starting as the big men, Walker joins Dorian Finney-Smith to give the Gators four players with length and size in the paint. Before the NCAA cleared Walker, the Gators were in danger in the paint if a big man got into foul trouble. The four players now help them prepare to fight through it if that situation occurs.

It could come up on Tuesday at 7 p.m. when the Gators travel to Knoxville. The Volunteers dominate the glass and have the best rebounding margin of any SEC team.

"With (Walker), we're a deep team across the frontcourt," Donovan said. "Having Chris gives us a little more depth in our frontcourt that we didn't have the first time we played (Tennessee)."

INJURY REPORT: Senior forward Casey Prather (sprained ankle) was the only Florida player held out of practice on Sunday. The trainers decided it would be best to keep him off the court and give him an extra day to rest with only two days between the Alabama win and Tuesday's matchup with Tennessee.

Prather was expected to practice on Monday and be fine to start on Tuesday against the Volunteers.

YEGUETE IS THE GLUE: Donovan doesn't get asked about forward Will Yeguete very much, but every time he turns on the game film, he wonders why that isn't the case. The senior doesn't lead the Gators in points or have the size to make him an NBA prospect, but he makes the important plays that go unnoticed in the box score.

"He's one of those guys who, in my opinion, is very undervalued and very under-appreciated," Donovan said. "I try to do the best I can to let him know how much I appreciate what he does. He's really reliable on defense. He's smart and knows what's going on. Obviously he's not the best scorer in the world, but he impacts the game is so many different ways. I have a high level of trust and respect for him and personally, as a coach, I appreciate what he does every day.

"He's not a guy who steals headlines after games. As a coach, you go back and watch the film and stuff that he does doesn't show up in the stat sheet, but it shows up in the won-loss column. Maybe he doesn't get the attention that other guys get, and that's unfortunate at times, but there's no questions he's a vital part of our team."

His teammates recognize the impact he makes on the game, especially the ones that have spent the last four years with him.

"He does all the little things, all the dirty work," senior guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "Sometimes it doesn't get recognized, but we always recognize it. I always see him and try to congratulate him because as we saw last year, when he went out, we're just not the same team without him. He does a great job defending and does a great job helping me on the pick-and-rolls keeping the guard out of the lane. He's just a great overall player."


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