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Wednesday April 11, 2012 Pitchford will transfer, wants to be closer to home

Updated: 3:50pm, April 11

Pitchford GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Walter Pitchford, a reserve freshman forward, is leaving the Florida basketball team in hopes of transferring and playing for a program closer to his home in Michigan.

A 6-foot-10, 221-pounder from Grand Rapids, Pitchford appeared in just 13 games for the Gators during the 2011-12 season, scoring six points and grabbing four rebounds in 22 minutes. Two of his points came at the end of UF’s 71-45 victory over Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"It’s definitely the best thing for him and his family, just with some of his extenuating circumstances. Right now, he just needs to be near his family,” Coach Billy Donovan said Wednesday. “They need him home and they want him home.”

Pitchford, who along with his family met with Donovan Tuesday, plans to petition the NCAA in hopes of being granted immediate eligibility and avoid sitting a season per transfer rules.

“It’s been great learning from Coach Donovan and competing with my teammates here at Florida," Pitchford said in a statement. "I made this decision because I need to be closer to my family at this time.”

Pitchford signed with DePaul in 2010, but was released from that letter after opting to attend a prep school, instead. At East Lansing (Mich.) Summit Christian he averaged 17.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game during the ’10-11 season before signing with the Gators a year ago.

“Even though he didn’t play a lot this year, his attitude every day was phenomenal; always good energy, always good enthusiasm,” Donovan said. “I don’t remember him ever having a bad day attitude-wise. He was always about the team.”

The departure of Pitchford will leave the Gators with one available scholarship for the 2012-13 season.

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