GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Billy Donovan has done all he can to quell expectations for highly touted freshman Chris Walker.
Last week, Donovan made it clear that the 6-foot-10 Walker won’t be Kevin Garnett this season. On Monday, the coach insisted Walker won’t play like Wilt Chamberlain when he makes his debut tonight against Missouri.
But Walker will get on the court for the first time since arriving on campus in mid-December, which should help the third-ranked Gators (19-2, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) as they near the halfway mark of league play and start getting ready for the postseason.
“The expectations on him as a player are way, way up here, and he can’t reach them,” Donovan said. “He can’t. I just want people to know. This is not going to be a guy that you’re going to say, ‘Billy, you really, really downplayed this thing. This guy came out and played like Wilt Chamberlain.’ It’s not going to happen.”
Donovan gave no indication how much Walker will play against the Tigers (16-5, 4-4), saying it will be “predicated on what he’s doing to help our team with foul trouble, fatigue and those things.”
Walker sat out 12 games, or 40 percent of the season, because the NCAA determined he “received preferential treatment from five people, including two agents.” The NCAA said Walker and people close to him accepted free cellphones and service, airfare, lodging, meals and apparel while he was a prospect.
Walker, who failed to qualify academically and spent the fall taking online classes to gain eligibility, joined the team Dec. 14 and has been practicing since.
But is he ready to make an impact?
“He is definitely a guy who brings a lot of energy ... as far as running, jumping around, being active and grabbing a bunch of boards,” UF’s Patric Young said. “You shouldn’t have too high expectations.”