Two teams that might possibly be in the preseason top 10 provided notable player availability news (of sorts) on Thursday. North Carolina fans may be pleased while Florida fans will have to wait until December, at the very least, and continue to hope.
Embattled Tar Heels wing P.J. Hairston, he of the multiple driving-related issues and current indefinite suspension, told The Daily Tar Heel that he expected to be on the court this season. This follows reports of the school's athletic director, in a meeting with faculty, suggesting that Hairston would miss some games but would be on the team.
As discussed all season, this Tar Heels team badly needs Hairston's shooting in order to pull all of the potential together. Whether P.J.'s back for Kentucky or not, his expected presence in the lineup for conference play should allow the Tar Heels to challenge in what should be a wide-open and highly competitive top of the ACC this season.
In Gainesville, the wait for highly regarded freshman forward Chris Walker will continue. Walker, whose potential eligibility has been in question all summer as his early high school course work was being examined, told ESPN.com he will not be eligible for the first semester but plans on enrolling at Florida in December. Florida has the returning frontcourt talent to weather the absence of the promising-but-still-raw Walker, at least for the majority of nonconference play. Getting him in the mix after finals will give him some time to adjust to the college level and maybe provide impact for the Gators in SEC play and beyond. The Gators are almost certainly the primary (and maybe only) threat to Kentucky in the SEC, so the more talent they have, the better. Their eventual fortunes, though, may rest more of the development of their perimeter play than what Walker will be able to provide in tandem with returnees Patric Young and Will Yeguete, as well as Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith. Incumbent point guard Scottie Wilbekin is currently suspended, but his play and/or that of freshman Kasey Hill will be a huge key.