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Florida freshman Chris Walker cleared to play after suspension

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer

Given his potential, Chris Walker could be a future lottery pick. (USATSI)
Given his potential, Chris Walker could be a future lottery pick. (USATSI)

Florida freshman Chris Walker has been cleared by the NCAA and will suit up for the Gators next Tuesday, sources confirmed to CBSSports.com.

Walker has not played in a game yet for the Gators, missing the first semester due to academics and then sitting out since then while the NCAA reviewed his eligibility. He has been able to practice, but was not able to play in games.

Walker will end up sitting 12 games, according to a statement from the NCAA. The statement said that Walker received benefits from two agents and three other people. He will donate $270 -- the money received from agents -- to a charity and serve 80 hours of community service.

"According to the facts of the case, which were agreed upon by the university and NCAA staff, when Walker was a prospect, he accepted free cell phones and service, airfare, lodging, meals and apparel. Additionally, individuals close to Walker received free airfare and lodging for nine different trips, including eight associated with Walker's non-scholastic basketball team competitions."

Walker is a 6-foot-10 power forward from Holmes County (Fla.). He was ranked No. 7 in the 247Sports Composite for the Class of 2013. Walker's ceiling is what makes him so intriguing. He is long and extremely athletic, and runs the floor. Walker is also a very good rebounder and shot-blocker.

Florida plays Mississippi State on Thursday and Texas A&M on Saturday, but Missouri comes to town on February 4. That will be Walker's first game.

“I appreciate all the support from UF, Coach Donovan and my teammates, and I'm looking forward to helping the team any way I can,” Walker said in a statement.

The Gators have done fine without Walker thus far, winners of 11 in a row and currently sitting at 17-2 overall, 6-0 in the SEC. They were already a Final Four favorite, but the addition of Walker makes the Gators even stronger come March. He will provide an excellent option off the bench for head coach Billy Donovan, given his mobility and motor. Casey Prather, Patric Young, Dorian Finney-Smith and Will Yeguete have shouldered the load up front so far, with Prather emerging as an SEC Player of the Year candidate.

“We're glad there's a resolution for everyone involved, especially for Chris," Donovan said. “We appreciate everyone's participation in this process and are ready to move forward.”

Walker won't have to be a dominant performer this season for Florida; there are enough options up front where he can be eased into his role. But getting a player with Walker's talent and athleticism at this point in this season is always a boost.

The story was first reported by ESPN.com.

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