Walker Still Has NCAA Championship Confidence
After taking the Connecticut Huskies to both the Big East tournament title and the NCAA championship, Kemba Walker was considered the second-best point guard available in the 2011 NBA Draft after Kyrie Irving. Over three college seasons, Walker had evolved into a team leader and one of the most effective big-time scorers in college basketball. As a lottery pick, the chances of landing on a weak team were high, but there is little that could have prepared Walker for the 99 losses he was about to experience over his first 120 professional games with the Charlotte Bobcats. Walker continues to look back at his college success to remind him that he is a winner.
“All the time, all the time, I don’t take losing very well, so to remind myself of winning I actually do go back and watch some of those games,” Walker said. “I actually just finished watching them, the five Big East games. I go back all the time to just remind myself that I am a winner regardless of my losing record in the NBA.”
Walker is enjoying personal success in his second NBA season. He leads the Bobcats in scoring with 17.2 points per games, assists with 5.6 per game and steals at 2.0 per game. His shooting has improved from last year to 41.9 percent from the field, 34.1 percent from three-point range and 79.2 percent from the free throw line. Any doubts about Walker’s ability to score in the NBA should be gone.
“I am definitely having a better season and, at the same time, I am getting a lot of experience and playing a lot of minutes,” Walker said. “I am getting a chance, an opportunity to showcase my skills, but it is bigger than me. The team isn’t having such a great season, but at the same time, I am just trying to get better.”
The Bobcats are doing all they can to fast-track Walker’s development. The handful of veterans on this team are there to support him, the coaching staff has a plan and team owner Michael Jordan occasionally offers helpful advice and encouragement.
“There are three areas [where we give direction to Walker],” Bobcats head coach Mike Dunlap explained. “One is we use Chris Paul as a model. They are very similar, obviously Chris is well down the path of where Kemba wants to be, but I see their bodies are similar and they have similar games, so we point to things that he does and [show him] lots of film. Second is Gerald Henderson is right next to [Walker] and Ramon Sessions is on the right hand side of him in the locker room and that is no mistake. So they book end him and kind of get him through some tough times. Third is Rick Brunson on our staff is a nine-year point guard on one-year [deals]. That’s a trivia answer as there are not many, if any, who have done that, extended themselves in the NBA on one-year [deals]. So Rick knows what the NBA is about, so I have him overseeing Kemba and they have a special relationship. So it is a three-prong attack and you can always have M.J., who drops in periodically to kind of, but not overwhelmingly, say Kemba this is your sophomore year and go through four or five points with Kemba and that is very powerful.”
Most important is that Walker stays positive and continues to develop his point guard skills.
“I am trying to become a better overall point guard and make the right plays,” Walker said. “Everybody knows I can score, but I am trying to make the right plays, the right passes at the right times. Even though we are on a bad team that is not winning many games, [the veterans] tell me to just get better, stay positive and stick with it because one day we will be a winning team.”
However, being on a losing team can be very hard on young players, so Walker is looking to the future and the support of his teammates has helped carry him through these tough times. Walker can see the day ahead when this team will turn the corner and start winning more games.
“I am not getting discouraged at all because I know that we are capable of winning in this league one day,” Walker said. “It is just that we are young. It takes experience to win in this league and it will come, it just takes time. You just have to try and have fun still and just go out there and compete because it does take time and I think our time will come.
“Everyone has confidence in me, my teammates, my coaching staff, that’s the biggest thing, especially your teammates. If your teammates have confidence in you, that is one of the most important things.”
It has been another long losing season in Charlotte, but the Bobcats sophomore point guard has been making some major strides in his own personal development with the help and support of his coaching staff and teammates. Walker will be on a winning team again eventually. In the meantime, he has his own personal championship memories and experience to remind him that he has achieved success before and can get there again.