- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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Florida lost Bradley Beal and Erving Walker from the 2012 Elite Eight team, but thanks to the returns of Kenny Boynton, Patric Young, Mike Rosario and Erik Murphy -- and the arrival of point guard Braxton Ogbueze, who could compete for minutes from the start of the season -- the Gators are going to be just fine.
Such is life at UF, where Billy Donovan’s feast years tend to outnumber his famines. Even by that lofty standard, the wave of talent landing on Donovan’s shores in 2013–14 might be the best since Joakim Noah & Co. showed up in 2004. The Gators are going to be loaded.
On Sunday, the No. 7-ranked player in the class of 2013, power forward Chris Walker, chose Florida as his destination, and as ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep writes, that move vaulted the Gators into the No. 1 spot in the class of 2013 team rankings. Walker said his choice was determined in part by the commitment of Florida Elite teammate Kasey Hill, the No. 6-ranked overall player in the class:
[…] Hill was the first to commit to Florida coach Billy Donovan. Hill is the point guard for the travel team, and he and the 6-foot–10 Walker clearly established a strong bond and affection for their in-state Gator team.
Walker (Bonifay, Fla./Holmes County) said his mind was made up and that he became sold on playing alongside Hill earlier this month.
“In Indianapolis when I saw the way me and (Hill) played, I saw the bigger picture with us possibly competing for a national title,” Walker said.
If that seems like bold talk from a player who won’t step foot on campus for another season, well, it is, sort of. But also consider that Virginia Tech ACC All-Freshman team member Dorian Finney-Smith selected Florida as his destination this summer, and that he’ll become eligible to play as Hill and Walker arrive in Gainesville. Meanwhile forward Young was just a sophomore last season; if he doesn’t turn pro, he could be back, as (much more likely) will be role players Scottie Wilbekin and Will Yeguete.
It is entirely silly to starting talking about 2013–14 national title favorites; we’re still months away from the start of the 2012–13 season. So I won’t go the full analytical route on future Florida squads today. But I will say this: At this date, Walker, Hill, Finney-Smith and the rest comprise the best long-term core group of players at any program in the country.