To fully understand what Erving Walker has accomplished as a college basketball player, it requires a little bit of context. We all will likely remember Erving as the fearless, undersized starting point guard for Florida. Erv’s prime recruiting years were while Florida was hanging two NCAA championship banners in the O’Dome.
I use the word fearless to describe Walker very intentionally. I could have told you that the young man was probably fearless once you told me that he was from Brooklyn (NY). Being a north Jersey native myself, I am familiar with the ballers from Brooklyn and what it takes to both succeed there and to succeed by getting OUT of there. Anyone who willingly moves from the city that Biggie Smalls proudly called home, to Gainesville, Florida has to have some serious stones on him.
He’s also got to have some serious game and confidence.
If you remember, when Erving Walker came to Florida, the backcourt was full with Walter Hodge, Florida basketball’s winningest player, Jai Lucas- a sophomore McDonald’s All-American, and Florida’s best player at the time; Sophomore Nick Calathes. The unique problem for the Gators was that, A.) All the guards were score first guards, and B.) They were all undersized, save for Calathes, who was OVER sized at 6’6”.
None of that deterred Walker from still enrolling at Florida and competing for playing time with those players. Erving Walker wearing his #11 Gators jersey in and of itself is a public display or his fearlessness.
As it turned out, immediately following the Fall of Jai Lucas’ sophomore year, he decided that UF wasn’t for him and transferred to Texas where… well, he was basically never really heard from again. So Erving spent his freshman year splitting time with Hodge and Calathes.
I provide that context for you as you reflect on the Gator career of Erving Walker as his Senior Day bears down on us this Sunday in the O’Dome, to remember that on a daily basis, Erv has had to earn everything that he has gotten. In his sophomore year, Calathes made the unfortunate decision to come out early and enter the NBA draft (He was drafted in the 2nd round by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was the 4th point guard they selected in the draft that year along with Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, and Ty Lawson. He eventually landed in Greece and plays there today), and Erving suddenly found himself as the starting point guard of a former back to back champion that was getting tired of playing in the NIT. He now had to replace the winningest player (Hodge) and best player (Calathes), while breaking in hotshot freshman Kenny Boynton and acclimate transfer Center Vernon Macklin to the team (Macklin transferred from Georgetown where he averaged 3.4 ppg and 2.1 rpg).
They say athletes need to have short memories in order to be successful. Shooters, kickers, goalies, hitters, Quarterbacks, pitchers, etc… Of all of the memories on the court, Erving’s is the shortest.
Over time, I’ve heard people hem and haw about Erving dribbling at half court with time running out, or going into the paint with the trees, or even taking one of his NNY* shots (NNY= No. No. Yes! These are the shots where as a player is pulling up to take it you yell, “no! no! And when it goes in you say yes!!). When I hear these things, I suppose perhaps the shortest memories in the O’Dome are ours.
It seems we forget that Erv probably has the best range on the team and that the shots he takes from 4-5 feet behind the 3 point arc are NOT bad shots. Guys less than 6 feet are typically pretty good at that shot because they’ve grown up not being able to get close to the basket and shooting from out there. I hope we haven’t forgotten how many of those he’s made. After all, he is 2nd on the all-time list for 3 pointers made for the Gators.
I hope that we remember for certain stretches in the past 4 years, you would be VERY hard pressed to find any player on our roster that could make back to back free throws. For games at a time, Erving seemed to be the only dude in Orange and Blue who could hit a foul shot… at all. His reckless drives to the basket often resulted in him shooting 2 at the line, but also resulted in some of the hardest shots blocked in NCAA history. He’s 5 foot 8. And by 5’ 8”, I mean that he’s not even close to being 5’ 8”.
I hope that we remember the RIDICULOUS shot he made at Georgia in 2011.
I hope that we remember the shot he made with UCLA’s Josh Smith draped all over him in the tournament last year.
I hope that we remember that once he took over as the full time starting PG, the team went to the tourney all three years, including an Elite 8 run.
I really do hope we remember Erving’s re-writing of the NNY* record book for Florida. While this is an unofficial “stat”, Erving Walker broke Brett Nelson’s record for career NNY* shots. Matt Walsh is 3rd on this list.
In this last home game for Walker, he will need a short memory. This Kentucky squad is good and will force bad things to happen for teams. Erving will have to forget when those happen and will certainly have to forget the last game he played against them at Rupp Arena last month.
Erving Walker is leaving UF as its 4th leading scorer. He’s leaving as the 2nd leading three point shot maker. He’s leaving as the leading assist man. And he’s leaving with a degree. Not bad for a kid from Brooklyn that was supposed to be a career backup at Florida.
What makes us as fans crazy about Erv, is ultimately what makes him successful at this level. His quiet cool… his fearlessness… and his short memory.
I hope that our memories of him last a long time here.
Go Gators. Beat Kentucky.
We, at BourbonMeyer.com will miss you Big Erv.