UConn’s Walker ready to make NBA transition
Kemba Walker took the NCAA tournament by storm as a dynamic,
speedy, nearly unstoppable scoring point guard who helped
Connecticut win the national championship.
Just over two months later, the former Huskies star is learning
the reality that the NBA is a more demanding place.
Walker was in Charlotte on Friday for the first of many
pre-draft workouts. Bobcats owner Michael Jordan was there, along
with a gym full of skepticism.
While Walker is expected to go high in the June 23 draft,
Bobcats coach Paul Silas said there’s ”no doubt” Walker’s
6-foot-1 height is a concern. He wondered whether the Bobcats would
want another small point guard – they already have 6-foot D.J.
Augustin – and declared the Bobcats wouldn’t attempt to trade up
from the No. 9 spot to snag Walker.
”If he drops to nine,” Silas said, ”we’d really have to
Hardly a ringing endorsement for a guard whose spectacular
quickness was no match for most college defenders. He got to the
free-throw line, shot well from 3-point range, and led UConn to an
unprecedented 11 straight wins to snag the Big East and NCAA
”I think he could be a good one,” Silas said.
Yet Walker, who acknowledged working out in front of Jordan was
a ”little nerve-racking,” was in the odd situation of having to
make excuses for averaging 23.5 points last season. He averaged
only 4.5 assists.
”Last season I had to score for my team out of necessity. But
I’m a point guard,” Walker said. ”I’m able to score, but I’m also
able to get guys involved, too. I think I fit in great with this
The 21-year-old Walker’s junior season at UConn included being
named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament. He scored
36 points against San Diego State and 33 against Cincinnati. He had
27 games of 20 or more and even rebounded well (5.4) for his
”With speed, it gives me a chance to get to certain places
other guards can’t,” he said.
Walker’s dominant season helped give Jim Calhoun a national
title in what could have been his final season. The 69-year-old
coach is contemplating retirement.
”I think he’s going stay, no question about that,” Walker
said. ”He just loves the game too much. He’s very passionate about
People have said the same about Walker, who guided UConn to an
unprecedented five wins in five days to take the Big East
tournament. But then there are the whispers.
Can Walker become a pass-first point guard? Will his body hold
up over an 82-game season? Can he effectively guard the bigger
point guards in the league?
”That’s always a concern. It’s a concern with who we have
currently,” Silas said, referring to Augustin. ”You just have to
find a way to help them out and design your defenses so they can’t
Walker’s quickness and toughness may be enough to overcome his
184-pound frame. It’s also hard to overlook what he did in
Perhaps fittingly, Walker’s first NBA workout Friday included
Butler guard Shelvin Mack. The two squared off in one of the
ugliest NCAA title games. Walker shot 5 of 19 from the field and
Mack 4 of 15 as UConn won 53-41.
Mack insisted more shots fell Friday.
”You can say that,” he said, smiling.
Walker, too, smiles when people question his size. Yet he’ll
likely face similar scrutiny in upcoming workouts with Utah (No. 3
pick), Toronto (5) , Sacramento (7) and Detroit (8).
”I just laugh. I’ve been playing basketball my whole life,”
Walker said. ”It’s never been an issue. As long as teams like me,
I don’t care. If anything, I’ll just adapt and adjust.”
Mike Cranston can be reached at