On the day Chris Walker became academically eligible to play last December, 15 NBA scouts came to watch him practice. A 6'10" sophomore with a 7'3" wingspan and 39-inch vertical, Walker is the kind of athletic big man the pros covet. But his tantalizing potential and short résumé—a career total of 34 points—sum up the issues with these Gators: Can a team filled with mock-draft potential deliver real-life results?
Walker, who will be suspended for the first two games for violating team rules, has limited low-post moves and no perimeter game, but he is an excellent shot blocker who will help coach Billy Donovan increase the tempo of his already smothering full-court pressure. Three-point specialist Michael Frazier II is one of the country's top shooting guards, though he must learn to create his own shot now that defenses will be game-planning for him. And how effective will sophomore point guard Kasey Hill be in crunch time without the support of Scottie Wilbekin, the 2013 SEC player of the year? "We may have to lose games for us to get better," says Donovan.
The Gators' coach proved last season that he could take a roster full of question marks all the way to the Final Four. With a starting lineup that includes four Top 25 recruits, he'll likely find the right answers again.
With 2014--15 Projected Stats
TELLING NUMBER 63.3
Effective field goal percentage (a stat that gives extra credit for three-pointers) for Michael Frazier in 2013--14, which ranked him 18th nationally. He sank 118 treys, a school record, and connected on an SEC-leading 44.5%, 10th best in the county.
Can the talented Walker deliver wins?