One-time UCF basketball commitment DeVon Walker has landed at another Florida school after signing his National Letter of Intent on Friday and the news comes at just the right time for the Florida Gators.
With the official word coming down Friday that freshman standout Bradley Beal will forgo the rest of his college eligibility and apply for the NBA Draft, Walker's signing was just what the UF coaches needed to hear.
Walker, who averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, picked the Gators over Alabama in a close battle between the two schools, according to Winter Haven coach Tyrone Woodside.
"His family has a very strong nucleus and everyone comes to his games, and I mean grandpas and grandmas, and aunts and uncles and cousins, all of them," Woodside said. "So when it finally came down to weighing the options, he went with school where everyone would be able to go see him play. That would have been a lot more difficult in Tuscaloosa, but he really loved both programs."
Walker led Winter Haven to the Class 6A state semifinals this past season. The Blue Devils lost to Miami Norland by nine points at the Lakeland Center.
Woodside also said Walker should fit in nicely with the style of play Florida Coach Billy Donovan stresses at UF.
"He's a great shooter and he has really long range. His has an extremely long 7-foot-1 wingspan," Woodside said. "He's kind of a Kevin Durant-style player. When he came in as a freshman, we put him on varsity at the point. He was only 5-foot-9 and still growing then, and then by February of his freshman season he was 6-2 and he just continued to grow."
Everyone knows Walker can score, but Donovan stresses defense at UF, and Woodside said Walker handles himself quite well at the other end of the floor. Walker is 6-foot-6 and 195 pounds now and he's somewhat discarded his lanky physique for a stronger upper body.
Woodside, who just finished his fourth season as Winter Haven head coach after serving as an assistant under old coach Don Grant.
"Don Grant, who used to be the head coach here, he really stressed defense and that's one of the parts of the system that I stressed here still," Woodside said. "DeVon knows it's defense or go home and he really took to the system. He's a ball hawk, and extremely talented shot blocker and he guards very well."
And he is also a leader, said Woodside: "We started two freshmen and a sophomore and he showed a lot of leadership and sacrificed a lot. He could have easily averaged 35 points a game, but he averaged 24 points and led by example. I think the team really benefitted from it."
As for the Knights of UCF, they had him, but for only 24 hours.
"Yeah, he committed on a Saturday and decommitted on Sunday, the next day," Woodside said of Walker's UCF pledge. "It was his first official visit and it was wonderful and he thought that was it. He loved it and everything seemed perfect but he wanted to go on other visits. We explained to him that once you're committed you don't take any more visits. So he decommitted the next day."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times