“I feel like I could race a boat right now.”
The average lake vessel motorboat cruises between 29-32 miles per hour, so Devon Walker’s assertion might by slight hyperbole, but as the redshirt junior guard added that it doesn’t even matter if the boat is on land or water, it becomes clear just how confident Walker is feeling about his comeback.
On July 19, 2014 Walker suffered an ACL injury that sidelined him for the 2015-2016 season.
As the Florida Gators stumbled to a 16-17 finish, Walker could do nothing more than sit by and watch, trying to help in whatever way he could, but no way seeming to be enough.
“Extremely tough, extremely tough because you’re almost helpless. You can’t help them and I tried to do as much as I can with talking and inspiration but I wish I could have done a little bit more.”
That “helpless” point brought Devon to a stage that opened the curtain on what mattered more than his individual game.
“That was probably the hardest point in my life athletically”, Walker admits.
“I just wanted to be out there with my guys and my brothers, and actually play. That’s the toughest thing and be actually able to eat with them and endure a war with them, that’s all I wanted.”
Now Devon will get his wish.
Closing in on his one-year injury anniversary, Walker says he’s almost there.
“I feel pretty good. The training staff has been doing great with me. A little bit more I’ll be 100 percent.”
A number that Gator fans will be looking at more than 100% though is .302.
That was Walker’s average from beyond the arc the last time we saw him play. It seems like forever ago now, when it was only a little over a year and a half. During that time, the hype surrounding DeVo has died down, mostly due to short-term memories. But when the Gators were on their Final Four run, Walker was positioning himself as a valuable bench guy and someone that would make a serious push for a starting position in his true junior year.
Now he gets another shot at proving himself, and implementing himself into new coach Michael White’s 3 happy offense.
His teammates are seeing the effort as well.
“Devon been working hard,” says sophomore forward Devin Robinson.
“He’s one of the hardest working players on the team. He’s starting to get back in the action. He’s working on his knee every day. He getting treatment everyday like he’s supposed to so he’s focused and I think he’s ready to go.”
Redshirt senior Alex Murphy sees an inspiration in Walker.
“DeVo is a warrior. He obviously had a really, really hard year. But to bounce back the way he has, and recover, and stick with the process, it’s been inspiring to a lot of people. To see him back on the court with us working out, he looks really good. He’s moving good, finishing above the rim and looks like he hasn’t missed a step.”
If Walker had not been hurt and played straight through, he would be entering his senior season. He’s now the only player left from his class, a fact that he says is weird, but now comes with responsibility.
“I think it’s a big deal now,” Devon explains.
“Guys think of me as the older guy, the leader, and it’s something I’m willing to embrace.”
Robinson agrees and is ready to attribute all the wisdom that comes with age to Walker as well.
“I look up to DeVo a lot. He’s like the wise man of the team, you know how we had Horford last year, it’s DeVo now so everybody looks up to DeVo now and he’s ready to go.”
He’s ready to go and fly right past that boat, coast to coast on the court in his return to the Florida Gators.