Florida Gators freshman Chris Walker was cleared to play by the NCAA on Wednesday and will be eligible to make his collegiate debut next week at home against Missouri.
The highly recruited 6-foot-10 power forward has been in limbo since being admitted to Florida in December. Walker has sat the last 12 games while the NCAA has investigated his amateur status.
The NCAA said in a statement that Walker received preferential treatment from five people — including two agents. Walker will be required to donate the $270 he received from the agents to a charity, and will also serve 80 hours of community service for the remaining benefits received, according to ESPN.com which first reported the story.
“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,” the NCAA statement said.
The third-ranked Gators are 17-2 and 6-0 in the SEC.
Florida plays Mississippi State on Thursday and Texas A&M on Saturday, and then the Gators face Missouri on Feb. 4 which 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.
“We’re glad there’s a resolution for everyone involved, especially for Chris,” coach Billy Donovan said. “We appreciate everyone’s participation in this process and are ready to move forward.”
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