The impact of losing Walker

DeVon Walker made a big jump from his freshman to sophomore season, and after the Florida roster lost four starters following the 2013-14 season, Walker had a chance to carve out a role on the 2014-15 team. However, his torn ACL changed that. first reported the injury, and the Gainesville Sun reported that it happened during a workout on Friday. Looking only at the statistics, it might not look like a big deal. DeVon Walker averaged 2.4 points in 12.1 minutes last season, shooting 30.9 percent from the field.

His most productive offense came from behind the three-point line. As a sophomore, Walker shot 30.2 percent from behind the three-point line and 19 of his 25 field goals were threes. His defense was the most important element Walker brought to the Gators. He was active and had 13 steals, just three less than Dorian Finney-Smith in 532 fewer minutes.

It’s hard to project what Walker’s role would’ve been on the 2014-15 Gators. At a minimum, he would’ve played the same role as last year, seeing double-figure minutes and being counted on to hit threes and play defense. There’s a good chance the minutes would’ve increased from the 12.1 he averaged last season.

So what happens without him?

The Gators have a few options. Walker would’ve been counted on mostly at the shooting guard and small forward positions. At shooting guard, there’s not much doubt who the starter will be. Michael Frazier heads into his junior year and will be the only returning starter this season. Behind him will be Eli Carter and Dillon Graham, and Walker would’ve been in the mix at that group. Freshman Brandone Francis is also expected to see minutes.

The small forward position raises more questions. Dorian Finney-Smith will likely be in the starting lineup, whether it’s at the small forward or power forward. Alex Murphy, when he becomes eligible at the end of the fall semester, will also factor into both spots. Walker likely would have come off the bench, but there’s a good chance he would’ve started the year as the first small forward off the bench.

The most intriguing name is Devin Robinson. The five-star freshman came to Gainesville as the No. 16 overall player in the 2014 class and the No. 3 power forward. However, he’ll likely starts his Florida career as a small forward. His 6-8, 200-pound frame plus length and athleticism makes him ready to play right away. His three-point shot could turn him into one of the most immediate impact freshmen in the Southeastern Conference.

Florida coach Billy Donovan has always been loyal to his veterans. With that in mind, there’s a chance that Walker could’ve started the year ahead of Robinson until the freshman got comfortable. With Walker out, the Gators won’t have a chance to ease Robinson into the mix.

He could even begin the year in the starting lineup. With Murphy sitting out until the fall semester ends, the Gators could start Robinson at small forward with Finney-Smith at power forward and Chris Walker at center. Post-grad transfer Jon Horford will also factor in and would make sense as a potential starter, allowing Donovan to find a starter at small forward and power forward from Finney-Smith, Robinson and Chris Walker.

Even with Walker’s injury, the Gators have options. Donovan and the Florida staff showed that they could piece things together with a limited roster early last season, and while this season won’t have as limited numbers to start the year, it will have as many question marks. The positive for the Florida program is that Donovan has made it work before, and even without a talented perimeter defender, the Gators should have a stout defense again.

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