No. 3 Florida has won 11 games in a row, a streak that began on Dec. 10 against fellow Hottest Team Around candidate Kansas, and somehow news got better Wednesday when the NCAA announced Gators freshman Chris Walker would be eligible to play in his first game Feb. 4 at home against Missouri after serving a 12-game suspension.
Walker, a 6'10 freshman, was the No. 6 overall player in Rivals.com's class of 2013, so his addition to a Final Four front-runner is significant. His high school and AAU highlight videos are fun to watch, though like all high school and AAU highlight videos, they offer little insight to a player vastly superior to the marginal talent playing both with and against him.
One thing you won't see here is Walker hitting shots facing the basket, which is significant. Because nearly all of his offensive game comes from transition opportunities and dunks, it's likely what minutes he sees won't have a huge impact on Florida's offensive identity. The Gators are already strong on the offensive glass — an area which Walker can help — and unless Walker has used his past few months of practice to develop a previously non-existent post game, most of his immediate contribution will be on defense.
But where Walker can step in immediately and help is exactly the area of perhaps Florida's most glaring weakness, blocking shots. The Gators have two big men in their regular rotation, Patric Young and Will Yeguete, and neither is reliable to guard the rim. Florida's block percentage (that is, the percentage of opponents' two-point attempts that are blocked) was 8.2 percent entering play Thursday, 236th in Division I and dead last among SEC schools.
If one were to pick out a weakness anywhere in Florida's all-around game through its first 17 games, defense at the rim may have been atop the list. Though it's unclear how much Billy Donovan will use Walker once he's available (and it's another thing entirely to know how Walker will perform in his first college games) the best-case scenario is rich. A team played the first half of its season and established itself as a short-list national championship favorite, and then it added a player to fill perhaps its biggest void.