Walker Proving to be Clutch

Erving Walker wasn't supposed to play this much as a true freshman. The 5-8 point guard from Brooklyn (NY) expected to see a good deal playing time in his first year on campus, but circumstances have seen that role increase significantly. While on the court, Walker is making the most of his chances and showing he can handle the pressure.

The Florida Gators find themselves in the heat of the SEC East race with five games left and young Erving Walker is a big reason for that. He is cool under pressure and will take a shot whenever it presents itself. Walker leads the Gators in free throw percentage at 84.5 percent, a number that would place him second in the SEC if he took enough free throws. It is something the team needs as it sits in the middle of the SEC ranked seventh in free throw shooting. For Walker, he never dreads going to the line to shoot a free throw.

The Gators have clanked their fair share of free throws late in games. Some of them have been crucial and the Gators would end up losing a close game with the misses. For Walker, he doesn't care when the shot takes place.

"For me it's just another shot," he said Wednesday night after the Gators defeated Alabama to earn a share of the SEC East lead. "It's the same shot in the first half as the second half, because it's a free shot."

He never purposely worked on free throws growing up, it was just something he continuously worked on with the rest of his game. Now, he is one of the better sharp shooters in the SEC from the charity stripe.

"(I didn't work on it) a whole lot, but I worked on it when I got tired," Walker said. "I was never a guy that just stood there and shot free throws."

The Gators won Wednesday, ending a two-game losing streak and propelling them back into the race for the SEC Eastern Division lead. With five games left, the Gators can still make a statement at the end of the season for a possible trip to the NCAA tournament.

"We needed a win, we didn't want to fall too far behind in the standings," Walker said. "We just needed that win coming off of a two game losing streak...we aren't used to that and didn't want it to turn into three."

The Gators have rally been using a seven to eight man rotation for the most part in the last few games as many on the roster have been injured and either unable to play or just not ready. That amounts to tired legs near the end of games and sometimes the shots that were going in at the beginning of games, just wasn't making it to the rim at the end of the game. That seemed to happen Wednesday as six players played 25 minutes or more and the Gators failed to make a basket beyond the 5:46 mark of the second half.

"We have good shooters, the shot just wasn't going in," Walker said of his team's shooting at the end of the contest. "I (don't want to say) it was heavy pressure because we had a good lead. I would just say they were missed shots, they were good looks and that is what we want."

At 20-6 it wouldn't be wise to consider this a struggling season for the Gators. However, the two game losing streak could have been the albatross that drug them down to a poor finish. Walker believes he and his teammates took something from the two game skid before the Alabama contest.

"We have to be more together as a team," he said. "We aren't being selfish, we just have to stick together with more unity as a team."

The Gators play again at home on Saturday against SEC Eastern foe Vanderbilt. With five regular season games remaining and three at home where the Gators are undefeated this season, they have a chance to have a very strong record overall and in conference to place themselves well in the off-season. Walker loves playing in front of the home town fans.

"It always feels good to come home, we are undefeated at home," he said. "We have great fan support at home, so we just needed to come out and play hard and win for our fans."

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