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 won 11 straight postseason games last year with the fiery and energetic Kemba Walker leading the way.
The Huskies took five games in five days to capture the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, and then added six more victories for their third NCAA championship.
Yet Walker, now a rookie with the Charlotte Bobcats, says the No. 8 Huskies are more talented now that he’s gone.
“I agree, I agree,” Walker, a Bronx native, said before tip-off Wednesday against the Knicks at MSG. “They have more experience now. Those guys have been through a long, challenging season.
“And with the addition of DeAndre [Daniels], Andre [Drummond] and Ryan [Boatright], they’re definitely more talented at every position. They got about 10 guys who can go on a daily. So they’re a great team.”
Walker attended several UConn games during the NBA lockout, but now that the season’s started he has less time to pay attention.
“I’ve seen highlights,” he said.
After getting shocked at Seton Hall, 75-63, Tuesday night at The Prudential Center, the Huskies will remain in the New York area through Saturday’s game at Rutgers.
But none of his teammates will be on hand Wednesday because they have other commitments.
Walker said his parents, Paul and Andrea, remain in Charlotte and he only had to leave two tickets for the game.
Still, he’s fired up to play here twice in six days. Charlotte visits again Monday.
“Excited, I’m home,” he said. “It’s always fun to be back home and play in front of the home fans. But at the same time, I just want to come in and get a ‘W.’ That’s the main goal.”
Charlotte coach Paul Silas said Walker, like most rookies, needs to become “more consistent in his shooting.” He’s shooting 36 percent overall, and 25 percent from beyond the arc.
“It takes a while for anybody to learn our league and to understand it, so I’m looking forward to him, maybe around midseason I think he’s going to be terrific,” Silas said.
Walker is averaging 9.6 points, 2.8 assists and 2.4 rebounds, but is coming off his worst game as a pro. He shot just 1-for-6 for 2 points in Tuesday’s 115-101 loss to Cleveland, which features fellow rookies Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson.
Still, Silas credited Walker with “getting the first win” against Milwaukee because “he just took over and just did the job.”
“But teams have started playing him a little differently now,” Silas added. “Getting up on him, not letting him take the jump shot, making him penetrate, so he’s gotta learn.”
Playing in the Garden will always have special meaning for Walker, who starred at Rice High School and played in the Nike Super Six here in high school.
Yet, asked for a favorite moment, he said, “Big East Tournament, by far.”
Walker didn’t want to make any predictions about whether this version of the Huskies can repeat but he didn’t rule it out.
“It’s possible,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a clearcut winner yet [in college hoops]. I think they’ll be fine. A few losses won’t hurt anybody. We lost nine last year.
“But when that [postseason] comes, different guys on different teams will step up. You’ll see a team that’s been doing terrible all year just happen to have a good run.”
And Kemba Walker knows a thing or two about magical postseason runs.
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.