GAINESVILLE -- Florida forward Chris Walker will miss the team’s first three games (including an exhibition contest) for violating team rules, coach Billy Donovan announced Wednesday.
At the team’s media day, the 6-foot-10, 225-pound sophomore declined comment on his suspension, only saying, “It’ll be tough, but I’ll get through it.”
Walker, a former five-star prospect and McDonald’s All-American, played just 18 games in 2013-14 after failing to qualify academically until December and later serving a NCAA suspension for receiving improper benefits.
“He has such a long way to go as far as being reliable, accountable and disciplined,” Donovan said.
Walker averaged just 1.9 points, 1.3 rebounds on 4.8 minutes last season, and many expected the talented big-man -- currently projected as a 2015 NBA first-round pick -- to play a key role this year.
Maybe, but maybe not, according to Donovan.
“His biggest challenge this year is going to be his ability to manage expectations,” he said. “Chris Walker played four minutes a game and everybody thinks he’s this savior. I can’t really tell you he is ready to handle that or even capable of handling that.”
Donovan continued: “I’ve never seen a guy have more hype coming into the middle of a season. … I don’t know what kind of impact he’s going to make. He’s got a long way to go.”
Meanwhile, freshman point guard Brandone Francis is academically ineligible for the entire 2014-15 campaign, per Donovan.
“He needs to prove himself academically,” Donovan said.
Francis is enrolled at UF, but the 6-6 guard from the Dominican Republic, who moved to Jacksonville and finished high school at Arlington Country Day School, won’t practice with the team the first semester.
“There’s things he has to do academically while he’s here to get himself eligible to play,” Donovan explained. “If he progress like we hope he will, he’ll be allowed to come back to practice for the second semester.”
Swingman DeVon Walker will miss the entire season with a torn ACL sustained during summer workouts, but Donovan said the junior guard may return to practice in January or February.
Eli Carter (leg) and Dillion Graham (hips, ankle) are cleared for contact but both players remain limited as the Gators open practice. Carter and Graham both missed the entire 2013-14 season, receiving medical redshirts.
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