John Calipari told Chris Walker to be patient. The 2013 prospect decided he was tired of waiting.
Walker committed to homestate Florida on Sunday morning, putting an end to several months of speculation over when (or if) Calipari was going to offer him a UK scholarship. The situation boiled over on Twitter earlier this year when Walker tweeted at the UK coach and then said if the Cats weren’t interested in him, he wasn’t interested in them.
Fences were mended within a few days, but the scholarship offer never came. And Walker found a place that wanted him more. He chose the Gators over Louisville and Kansas, who had offered him scholarships, and Kentucky, which hadn’t.
The 6-foot-10 power forward joins AAU teammate Kasey Hill in the Gators’ 2013 class. Walker and Hill are ranked either 6th or 7th by Rivals, Scout and ESPN. “Together we’ll be the best duo in college basketball, and we will win a national championship,” Walker said in his announcement video. (Go to the 2:28 mark in the video for his announcement).
Bringing in both players means Billy Donovan will have one of the top recruiting classes in the country. It also means Calipari and UK fans haven’t seen the last of Walker, who will now face the Cats at least twice in the 2013-14 season.
Walker originally planned to pick a school last November, but backed off when it became clear Calipari wouldn’t be offering him before the decision date. The Twitter blowup came a few weeks later. But he told Cats Illustrated earlier this month that he expected UK to offer him a scholarship sometime in July. Assistant coach John Robic saw him play in Indianapolis last weekend, but there was no immediate offer.
Donovan, on the other hand, made it clear he wanted Walker on his side. The Florida coach rarely missed an opportunity to watch Walker and Hill play, and Walker has constantly talked of the great relationship he has with Donovan.
Meanwhile, Calipari has been more focused on higher-ranked 2013 forwards such as Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and Jabari Parker. Calipari watched Randle and Gordon several times each at this week’s Peach Jam, and Parker still has UK on his list. The Cats can’t be considered the favorite for any of those players, but they remain squarely in the mix for all three.
UK is also widely considered the team to beat for the Harrison twins and James Young, who are all ranked among the top eight players in the class.