Jarace Walker, set for 2023 NBA Draft, reflects on time at Houston | Zagsblog
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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.
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Sunday / May 19.
  • Jarace Walker, set for 2023 NBA Draft, reflects on time at Houston

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    KANSAS CITY — As Jarace Walker made his way back to the Houston locker room after an 89-75 loss to Miami in the Sweet 16, his eyes were full of tears. His one, and only season at Houston, had just come to an abrupt end.

    “I cried my ass off,” Walker later said in the locker room. “Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever cried this much after a loss. Just knowing that we just got so close.”

    Walker was one of the few bright spots in the Cougars’ loss. The freshman big finished with a team-high 16 points and 11 rebounds, and also dished out five assists. While it was a dazzling performance, Walker confirmed it would be his last in college.

    “I mean, I really wish I could do another season with these guys,” Walker said. “But I just feel like [entering the draft] is what’s best for me.”

    Most NBA draft boards have Walker well within the lottery as a top-10 draft selection. In Jonathan Givony’s most recent ESPN mock draft, he projects Walker as the No. 6 overall pick to the Indiana Pacers.

    Walker undoubtedly has NBA talent. He’s physically strong. He has great touch around the rim and with his jump shot. He’s athletic and has a nose for the ball on the defensive end.

    While these are all great traits, Walker credits the Houston program and coach Kelvin Sampson with developing his game to where it needs to be for the next level.

    “Coming here, I feel like it developed me a lot,” Walker said. “Especially my shot, decision making, defense and just overall IQ for the game. Coming here was a big move, and it helped me get to the next level.”

    Specifically, Walker said he improved his game because of Sampson’s hard-nosed coaching. Some days Walker would be tired, or just not feeling well, and Sampson would be there to pick him up.

    “He never let up on me,” Walker said. “He made me better each and every day, whether I wanted it or not.”

    Walker also mentioned he’ll be bringing that Houston “edge” and “grit” with him to the NBA. Walker said how hard he plays now — and all the intangibles he brings — wasn’t necessarily something he came to school with. But now?

    “I’ll keep that hard hat on, always be ready to work each and every day just to get better,” Walker said. “I feel like I’ll keep that with me forever.”

    As for his teammates, Walker said he now truly has brothers for life.

    “They said that they love me, they’re going to miss me, they appreciate everything,” Walker said. “It’s been a good fun ride. It’s just something I’ll never forget.”

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