Highlights of Gator Signees Kasey Hill and Chris Walker above [Audio includes profane language]
Now that we’ve all had a couple days to reflect on the unfortunate ending to an otherwise superb 2012-2013 Gator basketball season; it’s never too soon to look ahead. In the past, when Florida lost multiple starters, fans would creep into basketball season weary of what could be accomplished by the fresh faces on the court. Unlike those seasons, Gator fans have every reason to be excited about the future of Billy ball for the 2013-2014 season. Florida will return a host of talented players along with two stellar transfers and a pair of highly touted freshmen.
With the McDonald’s High School All-American game taking place Wednesday night in Chicago, let me introduce you to the dynamic duo that will garner the Orange and Blue next season.
First up, we have explosive point guard Kasey Hill from Monteverde Academy in Eustis, Florida. Hill stands at 6’1, 180lbs and is a former teammate of current Gator’s three point machine, Michael Frazier. He is a consensus top ten player in the country and may be the best point guard to ever come play in Gainesville, and that’s saying something. ESPN ranks Hill as the second best point guard in the country and ninth best player overall. He selected the Gators over a crowd of other schools, including Louisville and Kentucky.
Hill is a pure point guard that can orchestrate on offense off both the dribble and pass. He possesses a very high basketball IQ and see’s the entire court extremely well. Hill is a terrific floor manager that has received high praise for his composure and leadership both on and off the court. He is very effective at getting to the basket but will need to work at expanding his shooting range as he progresses through his college career.
Hill will immediately compete for playing time along with fellow Florida backcourt teammates Scottie Wilbekin and Braxton Ogbueze. Wilbekin will undoubtedly be a starter next season, but Hill is simply too skilled to keep off the court.
You can catch Kasey Hill wearing number zero for the East Squad in the McDonald’s All-American Game.
Next up, Hill’s AAU Florida Elite teammate, power forward Chris Walker. Standing at 6’10, 215lbs, Chris Walker may be the final piece in moving “Dunk City” from Fort Myers to Gainesville. Ranked by ESPN as the sixth best power forward and 14th best player overall in the class of 2013, Walker chose to play for the Gators over offers from Kansas, Connecticut and a host of other schools. Walker has been vocal about his displeasure in never receiving a Kentucky offer, something that will motivate the power forward as he battles in SEC next season. Excited yet? I know I am.
The 2013 Powerade Jam Fest winner was a dominant force in high school while leading Holmes County High School to the 1A State Championship. Walker was a one-man show in the State Championships; tallying a triple-double in the State Semis, followed up by a 30-point, 15-rebound and 7-block performance in the finals to earn him the title of tournament MVP.
“Skywalker” as he is often referred to, is a high-flying athletic player who runs with terrific energy every second he is on the floor. His massive wingspan allows Walker to be a force to be reckoned with on the boards as both a shot blocker and rebounder. He will come to Florida somewhat lean and look to put on some muscle mass to avoid being pushed on the block by the bigger players in college. Additionally, he will need to develop some post moves to be an consistently effective scorer in college. Walker was made for the transition game and will give Gator fans plenty of highlight reel plays in the up tempo pace of Florida’s offense.
With Florida returning Yeguete, Prather, possibly Young and the additions of transfers Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris, the Gators will undoubtedly have an extremely deep and talented frontcourt next season. Playing time will have to be earned but I can’t imagine Walker not playing a significant amount of time next season.
You can find Walker sporting number 23 alongside his future Florida teammate for the East team Wednesday night.
Billy Donovan certainly put a lockdown on the state this year grabbing the two best players in the state of Florida for 2013. “I’m really excited about the two guys we got,” Billy Donovan told the Gainesville Sun. “Kasey Hill is clearly one of the better point guards in the country. He’s explosive. He’s really good in transition for our style of play. (Walker) is long, he’s athletic, he’s quick. I think his offense needs to get better, but he’s got a really good motor.”
Both Hill and Walker are future NBA prospects that make the Gators a better team immediately with their impact. Both will have their growing pains adjusting to pace of the college game but should contribute in a big way for Florida next season. One of my favorite things about both players is that they have proven track records of success and leadership, two characteristics that simply can’t be taught. In a YouTube highlight reel, Walker went as far to call him and Hill as “the best duo in college” and guaranteed a national championship during their time in Gainesville.
The fact they have played together already for so long is a huge plus. Florida will have a great deal of length next season and the athleticism can all but guarantee a ton of highlights for Gator fans. As the roster stands currently, I would project the Gators to start Hill, Wilbekin, Prather, Finney-Smith and Young. A lot could develop in that time but having players like Will Yeguete, Damontre Harris and Chris Walker come off the bench should have Gator fans grinning from ear to ear. I doubt either player turns pro after one season in Gainesville, but there is no telling how effective their freshmen campaigns will be.
The Florida bred duo was good enough to give the Gators the eighht best recruiting class in the country in 2013 according to ESPN. I expect Florida to be a Top 10 mainstay next season and compete for both the SEC and National Titles. The class of the SEC will once again be a battle between Florida and Kentucky. John Calipari was at it again this season, bringing in another top ranked class sporting seven players, six of which are top 20 players. LSU also had a surprisingly good class, coming in right behind Florida at the seventh spot with 6 players heading to Baton Rouge. You can catch Kasey Hill, Chris Walker and all of the McDonald’s All-Americans at 9:30pm on ESPN Wednesday night.
The Florida Gator women’s basketball team also signed a McDonald’s All American in Port Orange, FL Atlantic High School guard/forward Ronni Williams. Catch Williams in the Women’s McDonald’s All-American game on ESPNU at 7pm Wednesday night.