Kyrie Irving with David Stern After Being Selected Number One Overall in NBA DraftBrandon Knight with David Stern at NBA Draft
- Kemba Walker with David Stern at NBA Draft
Kemba Walker of the University of Connecticut Huskies had one of the most remarkable seasons in the history of NCAA basketball. After a season that began 21-9, the Huskies went on to win five games in five nights to capture the Big East tournament, before moving on to capture the NCAA tournament after six more wins. In what will also be one of his career highlights, Kemba Walker was selected by the Charlotte Bobcats with the ninth pick overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. “I’m extremely happy to be going to Charlotte. I’m happy to be a New York City kid, being able to live his dream. A lot of guys from New York grow up dreaming about playing in the NBA, and here I am going to Charlotte playing for what people say is the greatest player to play this game (Michael Jordan)” Walker said after his selection.
One of the many things that makes Walker special is his humble nature. “I’m happy. I can’t complain at all. If I went 30, I wouldn’t be mad, honestly. I’m just happy to be in the NBA.” When I asked Walker about what he learned at UConn and from UConn head coach Jim Calhoun that would best serve him in the NBA, he responded “Pace.” He continued “I leaned pace, I learned how to use my speed. I learned when to slow it down and I think that would definitely translate to the NBA game.”
As great of a season as Kemba Walker had, Kyrie Irving may have had an equally disappointing season at Duke University. Irving played in the first eight games of the season, but missed the next 26 games of with an injury to a toe on his right foot. Remarkably, he returned to the Blue Devil lineup in the NCAA Tournament, but they lost to Derrick Williams and the Arizona University Wildcats, 93-77 to end his college career.
“When David Stern came up there and said that the Cleveland Cavaliers have five more minutes on the clock, that felt like the longest five minutes of my life. It’s a great feeling being drafted, knowing that all of my hard work has come to fruition now” Irving said after being selected with the overall #1 pick by Cleveland.
When I asked Irving what skills he learned at Duke under Coach Mike Krzyzewski that would serve him best in the NBA, he responded “I truly believe that Duke is a professional program. The way we prepare, practice, we practice like professionals and that’s what he taught me and that’s what I’m going to carry to the next level is how to prepare like a professional. Being a part of the Duke program and shadowing coaches when I was hurt, I really learned a lot how to prepare like a professional. When I was hurt, things, it slowed down for me. So I really got a chance to learn from them, learn from the coaches, especially.”
Brandon Knight was the second of the three point guards taken in the top nine picks, and was selected by the Detroit Pistons, a team he didn’t work out for. Knight was honest when responding to whether he thought he was going earlier. “I did, but the draft is inexact. You can’t think about it. For now, it’s just about making people pay that passed up on you. That’s really what it’s about.” When I asked him if he was surprised with being selected by Detroit, he responded “I was kind of surprised. I didn’t think it would come from them, but like I said, the draft is inexact. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Ironically, Knight’s last collegiate game, a 56-55 loss, was against Kemba Walker, the player who was selected behind him in the draft. The two will now meet several times a season, and, with Irving playing in the Eastern conference as well, all three point guards who hail from the East Coast will be seeing a lot of each other on and off the court over the years. Will Irving be the best of the three, or will Kemba, selected last of the three, make the Cavaliers and Pistons pay for not drafting him? Or will Brandon Knight fulfill hi desire to make people pay for passing up on him? Only time will tell, and with these three talented young point guards, it will be fun watching them for years to come.