Spirits were high last season for the men’s basketball team: the “streak” came to a screaming halt, the Cats won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in 20 years and the face of the team was an All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year.
But after the Wildcats lost to Wisconsin in the second round of the tournament, the headlines and speculation shifted from the tournament to the draft.
Michael Beasley and former Memphis guard Derrick Rose were the faces of the 2008 NBA Draft, but this draft was overflowing with college talent. Five players from KU’s national championship team were chosen and a record 10 freshmen were drafted in the first round, according to Sports Illustrated.
Names like Mayo, Gordon and Bayless were tossed around for weeks prior to the draft, but former Wildcat Bill Walker did not receive the coverage and hype given to former teammate Beasley. Concerns about Walker’s health were strong enough that no team in the first round was willing to see what he could do.
It wasn’t until the 47th pick that the Washington Wizards took a chance on Walker and then traded him to the reigning champion Boston Celtics.
On Aug. 22, the Celtics signed Walker, though no details of his contract have been given, according to WIBW-TV in Topeka. There is little he can do to make the Celtics better than they were during their championship run, but if Walker is patient, he could be an important contributor.
Two key pieces to Boston’s success were guards Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Both exploded in the finals and are set to be in Boston at least for another year. However, their respective ages might be Walker’s biggest ally. Allen is 33 and Pierce will be 31 when the season starts.
Walker’s size — 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds — makes him bigger than Allen and 10 pounds lighter than Pierce. Walker doesn’t quite have Allen’s shooting skill, but he can drive the basket better than either of them.
Walker does not have to be a superstar to get the job done, though. Forward James Posey averaged only 7 points per game, but he was credited with helping Boston dismantle Los Angeles in the finals. After the season, he signed a four-year contract worth $25 million with the New Orleans Hornets.
Once the core of the Celtics’ championship team retires or moves on to different teams, Walker could have the chance to play for a good team in a basketball town and for a players’ coach, Doc Rivers. If he can be patient and sharpen his ability, he’ll be throwing out the first pitch at Fenway in no time.
Owen Kennedy is a senior in management. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.