Erving Walker: “Bad habits are hard to break.”

By Adam Silverstein
November 24, 2011

Senior point guard Erving Walker has left it all on the court for the Florida Gators during the first three years of his career in the orange and blue and is looking to do the same this season before riding off into the sunset in March.

Despite his smaller stature (listed at 5’8”) and all of the obstacles he has had to face as a basketball player, Walker has had the full support of head coach Billy Donovan, who appreciates how much his leader gives to the team during each practice and game.

The duo of Donovan and Walker are somewhat kindred spirits, score-first players from New York who love to shoot the three, run the floor and lead their team offensively.

Yet while Donovan appreciates Walker’s mental fortitude and ability to never shy away from the spotlight, he decided to give him a different mission for the 2011-12 season: become a facilitator.

“He’s such a good, solid player. He’s made a lot of big shots, and he’s done a lot of great things for us,” Donovan said, “but he’s got to understand that as a catalyst back there, he’s got to almost show a disposition and attitude of great mental toughness that is not going to break or wilt at all.”

Walker’s assist-to-turnover ratio (2:1) has improved from a year ago, but he is only averaging five dimes per game and is coughing the ball up half as often.

“[I’m happy that I’m] getting my teammates shots. A few too many turnovers maybe and obviously I’m not shooting the ball too well right now, but I’m working on that,” he said.

[EXPAND Click to expand and read the remainder of this post.]His shooting has been a major concern through the first four games even though the team as a whole is making plenty of baskets. Walker is only hitting 36.4 percent of his field goals and shooting 27.8 percent from downtown this season, numbers that are shockingly low for a player who has been as consistent of a scorer as the Gators have had over the last few years.

He is undoubtedly pressing, something Donovan recognizes and hopes Walker can overcome in due time.

“As a senior, he has such high expectations for himself that he probably at times puts too much on his shoulders,” Donovan said. “He’s got to understand that he’s got a bunch of guys with him that can help.”

Walker may recognize that fact, but he admitted Wednesday that he is just as frustrated as fans are at his penchant for turning the ball over, driving in the lane without a plan, rushing shots and making other poor decisions on the court.

Unlike years past, his ability to recognize and embrace these flaws as things that he needs to change about his game may pay dividends as the season wears on.

“It comes with the territory sometimes with me playing, but I’m still trying to work on that and continue to get better at it,” he said. “It’s a bad habit. Bad habits are hard to break. Sometimes you revert back to it. You just got to stay conscious of it and keep working at it.”

Donovan knows if anyone can do a 180, it is Walker, a player that impresses him day after day regardless of how many times he might be disappointed in him after a costly turnover or rushed shot. He is especially pleased with his defensive exertion and rebounding effort even while up against larger players.

“There’s just subtle things he does that I can’t take credit for as a coach,” he said. “Erving a few times gets in there too deep – travels or turns it over – but he also gets rid of it at the right time where it puts the defense in a bind.

“There’s times where bigger people get position on him, but he finds a way to work his way around into a position where he can eliminate some of that height. I feel comfortable with him defending most people because he’ll work at it and give an effort.”

Despite the frustrations both are having early in the season, there should be no question that on this Thanksgiving, Donovan and Walker remain quite thankful for each other.

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press[/EXPAND]

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