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January 6, 2011

Notebook: Walker closing in on scoring mark

Erving Walker is closing in on a career milestone in his junior season as a Gator.

"Points or turnovers?" Florida coach Billy Donovan joked in response to a question about Walker closing in on 1,000 for his career.

The 5-foot-8 Walker has averaged 10.1, 12.6 and now 13.9 points per game in his three season in Orange and Blue, exceeding expectations for an undersized guard who was the lowest ranked recruit in his class.

This year, he has shot the ball better than ever, hitting at a 45.8 percent clip from the field and nailing just over 45 percent of his threes.

But the black mark on Walker's stat sheet has been turnovers, as UF's starting point guard is now averaging three per game and only has one more assist than turnovers on the season.

"He's got to make better decisions, I don't think there's any question about that," Donovan said. "It's a fine line with any aggressive player."

Donovan went on to say his point guards should log about a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, and it seems as though he has been calling for Walker's ratio to improve ever since the little guard from Brooklyn took the reins from Nick Calathes as a sophomore.

There's little question that Calathes was statistically the greatest point guard in the Donovan era and, likely, Florida's history. And his assist numbers back that up. He averaged 6.1 and 6.4 dimes per contest in his two seasons in Gainesville while keeping his ratio at 2.13 and 1.94, right where Donovan likes it.

Add in his scoring totals (15.3 and 17.2) and his statistics clearly blow away any other Donovan point guard. Yet many would still argue that Taurean Green, who ran the offense for both of the national championship teams, was better at running a team and offense than Calathes.

Green left for the NBA draft after his junior season, but he spent only his final two years as the starter at point guard, the same number as Calathes and now Walker, who is in his second year as the starting point guard.

Green's best assist to turnover ratio? 1.48.

Meanwhile, Walker's first season as the starter last year yielded a 1.95:1 ratio and his 4.9 assists per game were more than Green ever posted in a single season.

"I'm not going to change my game and try to force things or be more passive," Walker said of his recent turnover problem.

Though even his head coach seems to think Walker has had a turnover problem his whole career, the numbers more suggest Walker has just hit a rough patch lately, a trade-off Donovan is willing to live with thanks to his recent scoring proficiency.

Injury updates: Donovan said forward Erik Murphy is doubtful for Saturday's Southeastern Conference opener against Ole Miss due to a right foot injury.

Vernon Macklin, Will Yeguete, Chandler Parsons and Walker have all been battling bumps and bruises as well, but Donovan expects to have everyone suited up and available against the Rebels with the exception of Murphy.

"There's nothing severe other than Erik's ankle and foot that we're dealing with right now," Donovan.

Young's new attitude: Freshman Patrick Young came to UF with a lot to live up to.
The 6-foot-9, bruising big man was a McDonald's All-American and played on the 2010 USA Basketball U18 National Team that won a gold medal at the 2010 FIBA Americas Championship.

So far, Young has averaged just 2.8 points and 3.1 rebounds in 15 minutes a game, a far cry from what many expected of him.

Donovan has tried to help Young manage his expectations and focus on improving rather than live up to others' lofty standards.

"Will Yeguete has "exceeded expectations" because coming in as a freshman, no one expected anything," Donovan said. "Patric Young was an McDonald's All-American, USA basketball, comes in with all this big, strong, physical guy. He's going to cure all the physical problems in Florida's front court, and people never ever really gave him a chance to see that he's got to get better and he's got to improve."

Donovan said Young grew frustrated with his play in November and early December, which kept him from improving at a high rate, but lately he has become more at peace with his role and how he can help the Gators win with rebounding, defense and energy.

"He's never once tried to talk about the NBA or even scoring points," Parsons said. "He's so bought into doing all the little things."


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