Our spotlight on the best players in the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament with a look at the University of Connecticut’s Kemba Walker.
The run Walker went on in the grueling Big East Tournament is the stuff of legends. Against competition from the best conference in the country, Walker scored an astounding 130 points in five games, the most by a player in any conference tournament in 15 years.
Walker’s best game may have been against Syracuse. In 45 minutes, he scored 33 points, had 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals in an overtime victory. For the year, Walker averaged 23.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists. His game has progressed each season and he’s become increasingly adept at hitting three-pointers. After hitting just 13 as a freshman, he nailed a career-high 64 from beyond the arc this season.
The question for Walker will be if his legs hold up. Playing five games in five days, for as many minutes as Walker did, is going to have a cumulative effect on his body. He was only 2-for-16 from behind the arc in the Big East Tournament. It’s worth noting that Walker is averaging a lot of playing time, at 37.5 minutes a game, and has already gone 120 minutes past his career high.
He has limited NCAA Tournament experience, although he’s shown he’s capable of delivering a big game on the biggest stage. In an Elite 8 win over Missouri in 2009, Walker scored 23 points on 7-of-9 shooting and added five assists. If Walker’s got anything left, he’s the type of player who could get hot and carry a team through a few rounds. And in the early going, NCAA’s don’t figure to be any more challenging that the Big East Tournament was.