- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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In early July, when second-hand reports said Florida prospect Chris Walker would be academically ineligible for the 2013-14 season, the record was corrected rather quickly: ESPN's Jeff Goodman reported that Walker hadn't heard one way or the other on his academic status, but was hoping to be enrolled in fall semester classes by the end of August. Likewise, compliance and eligibility expert John Infante noted at the time that Walker still had opportunities to get eligible by Aug. 21, and that if he didn't, he could always circle the wagons and target a January enrollment date instead.
It appears that Plan B is now the likely one. From the Gainesville Sun:
Donovan said he could not speak specifically about the 6-foot-10 Walker due to NCAA rules. His letter of intent is now null and void because he was not in school in the first day of UF classes on Wednesday.
“All I can say is that he’s not enrolled,” Donovan said before a Capital Area Gator Club gathering on Thursday. “What allows me to talk and communicate about these guys is when they are signed.”
Technically, Walker has four more days to enroll at Florida; the school's add/drop date is Aug. 27, when course enrollments are essentially finalized. That doesn't look likely. (After all, if you can't get eligible by Aug. 21, it's unlikely you'll be able to do so with an extra six days. Possible, I guess ... but unlikely.) That means Walker is technically released from his letter of intent, classified instead as a Florida commitment, and could theoretically re-open his recruitment or sign at another school. Given Walker's rather steadfast public commitment to the Gators, that also doesn't look very likely. He doesn't seem to be going anywhere.
The next logical step, then, is for Walker to pour all the academic intensity he can muster into getting eligible in time to enroll for the January semester. This isn't ideal, of course; Walker and Billy Donovan would surely prefer to have the freshman forward working in as early as possible. But a January eligibility is still better than the alternative, giving Donovan his talented freshman for a significant chunk of the season and giving Walker enough time on the court to prove himself in case he's considering a quick move to the NBA. That's the best possible scenario, of course, but it's still very much in play. And as Infante wrote back in July:
[Targeting a January enrollment] actually gives him more options, since in addition to continuing to take postgraduate courses, he could also register for one of the three SATs or three ACTs offered during the fall. Assuming that Walker’s issue is just a GPA/test score sliding-scale shortfall, this could theoretically go on indefinitely, as long as he does not enroll in a collegiate institution.
It's not ideal, obviously. When you hear that a player has essentially been downgraded from a signee to a commitment in late August, it's easy to think he'll never make his way to campus. Walker's status remains an issue at UF, but the dream isn't over just yet.