Billy Donovan could soon give Florida fans a reason to forget about all the recent mishaps while recruiting front court players. You know, aside from the whole going to the Elite Eight for the second straight season thing.
Five-star power forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, Fla.) is reportedly announcing his decision soon, although he has no specific date set.
More on Walker and other front court options after the jump.
I’ve felt for a while that Walker, a Class of 2013 prospect, would end up signing with Florida, and I still do. However, my confidence has taken a significant hit. Kansas is squarely in the picture and may be the leader.
And while Walker says he will commit soon, he has yet to receive an offer from Kentucky. Once he does -- he’ll get that offer eventually – it’ll give him a lot to think about, and whichever team he’s initially committed to will get nervous.
Florida has a few things working in its favor. For one, it’s the home-state school. At UF, Walker can stay close to his family and support system. Walker also has a great relationship with Donovan and acknowledges that frequently in interviews. Also, Donovan has an impressive track record with producing successful NBA front court players: Udonis Haslem, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, David Lee and Chandler Parsons, to name a few. On top of that, Florida has a commitment from top ’13 point guard Kasey Hill, a brilliant passer who would make Walker better.
Working in Kansas’ favor? Another one of Walker’s good friends is Kansas commit Brannen Greene. Greene, who was also receiving attention from Florida before he committed to Kansas, will certainly be in Walker’s ear, trying to convince him to join him in Lawrence.
If Walker commits to a school other than Florida, it’s important to keep in mind Donovan will not continue to recruit him unless he de-commits. However, Hill won’t stop offering his pitch to Walker. And neither will Greene, if he pledges to the Gators.
Walker is down to Baylor, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State and Syracuse, but it’s going to come down to Florida and Kansas. Until Kentucky offers, that is. I’ll give Florida the slight edge here and say Donovan finally shakes the bad luck he’s had in recent recruiting battles.
Meanwhile, Class of 2012 forward Anthony Bennett is paying attention to Florida's tournament run.
Bennett claims a top five of Florida, Kentucky, Oregon, UNLV and Washington, but it'll essentially come down to three schools: UF, UK and UNLV.
Bennett has a great relationship with Donovan, and his mom loves him and would be comfortable with her son being in Gainesville. Certainly, Bennett has seen the success of bigs under Donovan, and that's appealing. Bennett, a native of Canada, also has ties to Florida wide receiver and fellow Canuck Stephen Alli.
Kentucky is squarely in the mix, but with Kyle Wiltjer returning and Alex Poythress signed, playing time could become an issue.
UNLV is the main competition. It's right in Bennett's backyard and the Rebels also have Khem Birch, one of Bennett's good friends, on the roster. Birch calls Bennett multiple times a week to give his pitch to Bennett, who gave an interesting quote to the Las Vegas Sun about Birch's effect on his recruitment. Bennett on Birch: "He's a real cool guy. We are real close. Hopefully, everything works out and I get to play with him. If it doesn't, we'll still be cool. We'll still be friends."
Another front court player may become available in the near future. Connecticut’s junior forward/center Alex Oriakhi announced he plans to transfer from UConn for his senior season.
Connecticut is facing a possible 2013 postseason ban because of poor Academic Progress Rates. If that postseason ban happens, Oriakhi would be eligible to play immediately at whichever school he chooses. Interestingly enough, Oriakhi still plans to transfer even if there isn’t a postseason ban.
Oriakhi hasn’t named any schools of interest to this point, but Florida could certainly use him. He’s a large presence at 6’9", 240, and can alternate between power forward and center. His production hasn’t lived up to his five-star billing coming out of high school, but he would add some size, rebounding ability and experience to Florida’s front court.