Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — UConn coach Jim Calhoun says he doesn’t think sophomore point guard Kemba Walker will leave early for the NBA.
“No, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I personally don’t think he’s in that position quite yet,” Calhoun said Tuesday as the Huskies prepared to face LSU in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Preseason NIT Season Tip-Off at MSG.
Asked if he’d had that conversation with Walker, Calhoun said, “Yes, yes. Right now the only thing he’s trying to do is get better.”
Calhoun will lose two seniors to the pros next season in forward Stanley Robinson, a likely first-round pick, and guard Jerome Dyson.
The 6-foot-1, 172-pound Walker out of Manhattan Rice High School is averaging 14.7 points and 3.3 assists on the young season. Speculation has him considering a potential leap to the NBA after this season but Calhoun doesn’t think it will happen.
“I think when you have a 7-3 guy [Hasheem Thabeet] or you have a Ray Allen, who in his sophomore year gets 36 in a Final 8, you’re talking differently,” he said.
Still, Calhoun believes Walker will play in the league one day.
“Conversely, he eventually is going to be able to be a one-man fast-break for a lot of pro teams,” Calhoun said. “He can really defend. He’s a terrific athletic who can rebound so there’s no reason to believe that he won’t eventually make money playing this game.
“But like a lot of New York City guards, they command the ability to go rim-to-rim, but sometimes it’s only between the rim. You’ve got to run the offense, and that’s what he’s going to have to learn the most.”
Both Walker and Villanova sophomore point guard Corey Fisher, also of The Bronx, have been mentioned as possible early departures.
Calhoun says Walker and the 6-1, 200-pound Fisher are eventually headed to the NBA, but he’s not sure about Villanova senior point guard Scottie Reynolds.
“Corey is a better shooter,” he said. “Kemba’s quicker and can go by you better. I think Corey’s a little stronger. They’re both pretty exciting guys, though. They’re both built for another level because they both have the intangibles of quickness, competitiveness, they’re kind of slight. They can do things.
“For example, Scottie Reynolds , who I think is a great college player, might be able to play in the NBA. His biggest problem is he may be guardable. I don’t know that. I love Scottie. I’m just using him as an NBA kind of thing, where Corey is very difficult to defend. And I think Kemba is difficult to defend and will become more difficult to defend.
“I don’t worry about Kemba being good. It’s just a case of how good he’s going to be. He’s already good. He’s already real good.”
(Photos courtesy UConn & Villanova Athletics)
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.