Suspended Stars in the Sunshine State
The biggest talk of suspension in college sports has been on the gridiron, but the hardwood has lost some stars as well. In the state of Florida alone, two key freshmen have been ruled ineligible.
The University of Florida will be without Chris Walker, while Florida State has lost Xavier Rathan-Mayes. Both have been suspended for academic reasons, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. For the Gators, it’s another blow this offseason for a team looking to build off three consecutive Elite Eight appearances. For the Seminoles, it’s a disappointing loss for a team needing an injection of new talent.
Walker is taking online classes and may reach the requirements to play by the end of the fall semester in December. He is now the second Gator suspended, after Scottie Wilbekin was suspended indefinitely earlier this summer. The team may not suffer from losing the 6’11” Walker, the No. 7 consensus recruit in the class of 2013, since they are returning seniors Patric Young and Will Yeguete. However, fellow freshman Kasey Hill will likely have to fill in for Wilbekin.
The Gators will still compete in the SEC, but they could certainly use Walker for depth inside, especially when competing against Kentucky, which boasts a front line of Willie Cauley-Stein, Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson, and Marcus Lee.
On the other hand, the Seminoles’ loss could be crippling. They lost Michael Snaer, who led the team in points and assists (14.8 and 2.5, respectively), to graduation and were counting on Rathan-Mayes to fill his shoes at guard. Instead, the team will rely heavily upon Okaro White, the Seminoles' lone returning double-digit scorer (12.4 PPG).
Rathan-Mayes’ commitment to Florida State came with a lot excitement not only for what he could bring talent wise, but also what could follow him. Florida State became a much more attractive destination to Andrew Wiggins, the nation’s top recruit, when fellow Ontario native and Huntington Prep star Rathan-Mayes decided to go there. Adding Wiggins would’ve solidified Leonard Hamilton’s squad this upcoming season. Instead, Wiggins went to Kansas, and with Rathan-Mayes’ suspenions, the Seminoles will now play without either one.
The suspensions could also put the brakes on the two individuals’ future plans. Rathan-Mayes’ draft potential isn’t through the roof (nbadraft.net doesn’t have him listed on their top 100 big board) and the suspension isn’t going to help. And while the plan is for Walker to start playing in December, that’s no guarantee. Even if it does happen, he’d be left with just half a season to showcase himself.
We’ve seen this situation before. Just last season, Providence’s Ricky Ledo was deemed ineligible. The No. 11 recruit in the class of 2012, Ledo still figured to be a decent pick in the 2013 NBA draft. The day of the draft, CBS Sports’ Matt Moore and Gary Parrish both had Ledo listed as a first-round pick. But he slid out of the first round, getting picked with the 43rd selection.
Keep in mind that was also in a significantly weaker draft class. At this point any chance Rathan-Mayes had of being drafted is gone. Walker has better odds, but would need to either play some portion of this season or have strong workouts next spring. The Gators and Walker should be better off than their respective in-state rivals, but the suspensions still sting for both programs and athletes.
By: Joe Diglio