Walker facing three-game suspension

Chris Walker will have to wait longer than most to get into a game this season. The sophomore forward will serve a three-game suspension to start the year.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said Wednesday that the suspension occurred because of a violation of team rules. The three-game suspension includes the exhibition game against Barry University on November 6. Walker will also miss the first two games of the regular season -- William & Mary on November 14 and Miami on November 17.

Walker will return on November 21 when the Gators host Louisiana-Monroe before Florida travels to the Bahamas to participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

“It’ll be tough, but I can get through it,” Walker said.

The sophomore didn’t make it to campus in Gainesville until December last year and also faced a suspension because he received improper benefits. He played just 4.8 minutes per game last season and averaged 1.9 points and 1.3 rebounds.

He will continue working out with the team and won’t miss any time in practice, but the Gators need Walker to make an impact in the paint this season once he gets on the court during a game. Donovan isn’t sure what the forward will be able to provide.

Chris Walker played four minutes a game, all of a sudden everybody is expecting him to be a savior in the front court,” Donovan said. “I can’t really tell you he is ready to handle that or capable of handling that.”

Donovan also said freshman guard Brandone Francis is admitted into school but will not play this season.

“The NCAA has given him the opportunity to be here, but he's got to prove himself academically,” Donovan said. “There's things he has to do academically while he's here to get himself eligible to play.”

If Francis shows academic progress, he would be allowed to practice during the spring semester, but he won’t play in a game during the 2014-15 season.

INJURY REPORT: Guard Eli Carter played in seven games last season before electing to take a medical redshirt and continue rehabbing his broken leg suffered in February 2013 when he was still at Rutgers.

“Eli Carter is moving in a much, much more positive direction than he did a year ago,” Donovan said. “He should be much, much better in terms of his availability this year.

Carter could be limited in the first few days of practice because of a bone bruise on his ankle, but that isn’t a long-term concern.

Dillon Graham (hip) was cleared for contact and has gone through contact drills in the last week of workouts. He took a redshirt last season and underwent surgery to remove bone spurs on his hip.

“Where he's at right now as a player, I'm not really sure,” Donovan said. “I did see him do some individual things against other players, but nothing team wise yet.”

DeVon Walker tore his ACL and will miss the season, but Donovan hopes he can return to practice in February or March to continue his development.

HOPE FOR EGBUNU?: One of Donovan’s biggest concerns for this year’s team is a physical presence around the basket. Patric Young provided that for the last four years, and while there’s no obvious replacement expected to fill that void, the Gators are petitioning the NCAA for one.

John Egbunu left USF following last season and decided to transfer to Florida. The 6-11, 266-pounder looks every bit of his listed size and would be ideal to play around the rim this season. The Gators are appealing the NCAA to let Egbunu gain immediate eligibility, but Donovan isn’t optimistic it will happen.

“We are in the process of doing that,” Donovan said. “There are some things that are going on there. Where that leads, I don't know yet. I would say that right now, if I had to guess, it's probably leaning more towards him having to sit out this year. We're going to exhaust all of our avenues and see where it leads us.”

Egbunu was a shot blocker for the Bulls

The current frontcourt includes Walker, Dorian Finney-Smith, Jon Horford, Devin Robinson and Alex Murphy, who will be eligible to play when the fall semester ends. Horford’s 6-10, 245-pound frame makes him the most physical player in the paint, but Egbunu would give the Gators exactly what they need.

“John is going to be a very, very good player,” Donovan said. “He's a big, strong, physical presence at the basket. He's a great kid.”

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