The road to repeat as SEC men’s basketball champions just got a little bit harder for the Florida Gators with news that small forward DeVon Walker has torn his ACL (an injury hauntingly familiar to anyone who followed Florida football in 2013). Just like that, his 2014-15 basketball season came to an end before it even began.
Last season Walker made seven starts and watched his minutes more than triple from his freshman year. He finished fourth on the team with 13 blocked shots and 19 three-pointers, which included a clutch performance in a thrilling 61-60 win over Kentucky for the SEC crown at the Georgia Dome. With the departures from last year’s squad, Walker was expected to take on a larger role as a regular rotation player for the Gators this season.
With Walker out of the mix, Rutgers transfer Eli Carter and freshmen Devin Robinson and Brandone Francis will all likely rotate in with redshirt junior Dorian Finney-Smith (a key piece of last year’s Final Four run). Alex Murphy, brother of former Gator Erik Murphy, is also an option starting with SEC play in the second half of the season. With the NCAA transfer rules, he’ll be eligible starting December 2014.
Though Walker’s three-point prowess and perimeter defense will be sorely missed, all is not lost. Finney-Smith is the reigning Southeastern Conference Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 8.7 points and a team-best 6.7 rebounds per contest off the bench last season. Robinson was a 5-star prospect and the No. 20 recruit in the nation. He’s untested, but has the talent to become a solid option early on. The Virginia native averaged 25.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game during his senior year, and also logged playing time with the Richmond Squires AAU team.
While losing someone of Walker’s talent is never easy to overcome, especially on a team adjusting to heavy turnover, Billy Donovan’s relentless recruiting has the Gators in a position to make up for his absence.