Kemba Walker is responsible for one of the greatest men's basketball seasons in recent memory. He led UConn to the national title in 2011 as a do-it-all point guard who propelled the Huskies to 11 straight wins to end the season.
Here's everything you need to know about Kemba Walker's college career at UConn.
Kemba Walker's college basketball stats, vitals
Position: Point guard
Weight: 172 pounds
Years active: 2008-11
NCAA tournament record: 10-1
Career averages: 16.1 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game, 4.1 assists per game, 1.7 steals per game
What was Kemba Walker's record in college?
UConn went 81-30 in three seasons with Kemba Walker, including two 30-win seasons: 31-5 in 2009 and 32-9 in 2011.
How many national championships did Kemba Walker win in college?
Walker led UConn to the 2011 national championship, his first and only championship in college.
What kind of prospect was Kemba Walker in high school?
As a sophomore at Rice (NY) High School, Rice won the city championship but Walker took a backseat to three future DI players, according to the New York Daily News. When Walker was a junior, the team was projected to undergo a rebuilding year but instead, it finished the regular season undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state. "We knew we were the best backcourt, we're bigger and I think we have more heart," Walker told the Daily News. "We've been doing this all year long."
In January 2007, Walker's team upset Derrick Rose's Simeon High School team in Madison Square Garden, then New York's best high school player Johnny Flynn and his Niagara Falls team the next day, 71-49. Walker had 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals in the win.
Walker, who averaged 11 points per game as a junior, hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Chris the King to win the Catholic schools championship. In the Class AA semifinals, Walker scored a game-high 28 points while holding Mount Vernon star Mike Coburn to just five points to push Rice to the state championship. The Journal News in White Plains, New York, noted that the return of Kemba Walker, Durand Scott and Lamont Jones would give Rice one of the best backcourts in the country in the 2007-08 high school season.
During Walker's senior season, Rice was ranked in the top 10 nationally, according to USA Today, and he ranked among the top five point guards in his graduating class, according to The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware.
What was Kemba Walker's game like?
Kemba Walker was a speedy point guard who was noted for his intangibles as a leader and teammate. Countless news stories from Walker's college career make a point of mentioning how much fun Walker had playing basketball, how he'd smile on the court after big plays and joke in the locker room or media sessions.
He was a self-admitted defense-first point guard in high school who's offensive game seemed to take major strides year over year. His scoring average climbed from 8.9 points per game as a freshman at UConn to 14.6 as a sophomore to 23.5 as a junior. His free-throw percentage increased by roughly five percent each season and while he was never a great 3-point shooter in college, he made roughly a third of his attempts as a sophomore and junior, forcing defenses to at least respect his outside shooting.
Walker played major minutes for the Huskies, ranking ninth nationally as a junior by playing 92.4 percent of his team's available minutes in 2010-11. He was the heart and soul of his team.
What were some of Kemba Walker's best games?
It only took two games into Kemba Walker's college career for him to break the 20-point mark. He had 21 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals against Hartford. In his next game, Walker dropped 23 points and four assists against La Salle. As a freshman at UConn, Walker scored at least 20 points twice in his first three games, but just twice in his next 33 games. But the last of those four performances came against Missouri in the Elite Eight, when he scored 23 points, five rebounds and five assists on 7-of-9 shooting.
Walker started just twice all season as a freshman but he moved into a full-time starting role as a sophomore. That's when his scoring average climbed from 8.9 per game to 14.6 per game. Surprisingly, Walker had the same number of 20-point games as a sophomore as he did as a freshman: four. But he was a much more consistent scorer, reaching double figures in 27 of 34 games.
He set a new career-high with 29 points, along with nine rebounds, on the road against Villanova. A week later, he had 21 points against West Virginia, followed by 28 against Louisville, a taste of what was to come the following season.
Walker's play crescendoed as a junior. He opened the season on fire, scoring a career-high 42 points against Vermont in the second game of the season, followed by 31 against Wichita State, 30 against Michigan State, 29 against Kentucky and 30 against New Hampshire. His next game? A 24-point, 13-rebound, 10-assist triple-double against UMBC.
Walker left Storrs, Conn., ranked first in program history in 30-point games in a season (11) despite never scoring 30 points in a game until his junior season.
In that third year at UConn, Walker showed he could single-handedly carry the Huskies. They won their last 11 games of the season, all elimination games in the Big East or NCAA tournaments. Walker's point/rebound/assist totals in those games were as follows:
- 26 points, seven rebounds, five assists against DePaul
- 28 points, six rebounds, three assists against No. 22 Georgetown
- 24 points, five rebounds, five assists against No. 3 Pitt
- 33 points, 12 rebounds, five assists (with six steals!) against No. 11 Syracuse
- 19 points, two rebounds, three assists against No. 14 Louisville
- 18 points, eight rebounds, 12 assists against No. 14 seed Bucknell
- 33 points, six rebounds, five assists against No. 6 seed Cincinnati
- 36 points, three rebounds, three assists against No. 2 seed San Diego State
- 20 points, four rebounds, seven assists against No. 5 seed Arizona
- 18 points, six rebounds, seven assists against No. 4 seed Kentucky
- 16 points, nine rebounds against No. 8 seed Butler
Watch the complete replay of UConn's win against Kawhi Leonard and San Diego State in the Sweet 16 below:
What awards did Kemba Walker win in college?
Here are some of the awards that Walker won in college:
- 2009 Big East All-Rookie Team
- 2009 West Regional Team
- 2011 Big East Tournament MVP
- 2011 West Regional Team
- 2011 Final Four Most Outstanding Player
- 2011 All-Tournament Team
- 2011 consensus First Team All-American
- 2011 Bob Cousy Award winner
What records did Kemba Walker set in college and where does he rank among historical greats?
Here are some of the records Walker set in college and where he ranks in notable statistical categories:
- 1st in the 2011 NCAA tournament in scoring average: 23.5 points per game
- 1st in UConn history in 30-point games in a season: 11 games
- 1st in UConn history in field goals made in a season: 316 field goals
- 1st in UConn history in free throws made in a season: 258 free throws
- 1st in UConn history in points in a season: 965 points
- T-1st all-time in games played in a season: 41 games
- T-1st all-time in free throw percentage in an NCAA tournament game (min. 12 FTM): 100%
- 2nd in UConn history in free throws made: 501 free throws
- 3rd in UConn history in most consecutive games with at least 20 points: 11 games
- 4th in UConn history in single-season scoring average: 23.5 points per game
- T-4th in UConn history in points in a half: 29 points
- 5th nationally in scoring average in 2011: 23.5 points per game
- 5th in UConn history in career steals average: 1.67 steals per game
- 5th in UConn history in a steals in a season: 77 steals
- T-8th in free throws made in a single NCAA tournament: 44 free throws
- T-8th in UConn history in points in a game: 42 points
- 9th all-time in UConn history in scoring: 1,783 points
What did people say about Kemba Walker?
New York Daily News on Walker's junior season: "The heart and soul of the team. He's becoming a leader on offense and defense and he's going to be the engine that drives his team this year."
New York Daily News on Walker's senior season: "Kemba Walker improved more than any point guard in the senior class this summer. A future All-Big East point guard. He has every intangible you could look for."
Rice High School coach Maurice Hicks: "Kemba is by far our best defender."
Hicks on Walker entering his junior year of high school: "You could see that he was ready when he came back to school in September. He was anxious about starting our preseason program and when we were in the gym, he was always in there working on his shot."
Mike Anthony of the Hartford Courant after UConn's win over St. John's in 2009: "His expressions, his actions, his effect on this mess of a game stood out like the Empire State Building on the Manhattan skyline. This was Kemba Walker's night, and he was pretty sure of that upon banking in a 3-pointer midway through the second half."
Former UConn teammate Hasheem Thabeet: "We just love the way he plays. He's phenomenal."
UConn coach Jim Calhoun after UConn's Elite Eight win over Missouri in 2009: "He is a pretty special player. Yes, it was a perfect game for him."
Calhoun in 2011: "He's going to find joy wherever he goes. He's that kind of person."
UConn teammate A.J. Price after UConn's Elite Eight win over Missouri in 2009: "He grew up today. He was a man amongst boys. He was dribbling through two or three guys and still had enough to get it in."
Richard Obert of The Arizona Republic after UConn's Elite Eight win over Missouri in 2009: "Missouri's speed game played into the hands of the freshman from Bronx, N.Y. Guard Kemba Walker broke through the press, fought for space in the lane, and with time ticking down on the shot clock he banked in what Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun called the 'dagger' in the Huskies' 82-75 victory Saturday in the West Regional final at University of Phoenix Stadium."
Former Missouri coach Kim Anderson: "They rose to the occasion. They made big plays ... I think the biggest one is where we had great defense and — is it Kemba? — Walker, he banks one in. That's when you go, 'Whoa, what is taking place?'"
The Daily Press: "Without the 6-foot-1 freshman's heroics, the Huskies likely would have watched Missouri advance to its first Final Four."
Villanova coach Jay Wright in 2010: "Kemba Walker got going and we had no answer. He was just outstanding."
Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant: "Kemba Walker is always dying for a smile."
UConn associate head coach George Blaney: "I thought Kemba was terrific. I thought he had control of what he was doing. He came off looking to shoot, which makes him so much more of a threat, and he got us into offense."
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey: "They were pretty darn good when we played them in Hartford. We're playing that UConn team that started the year now. I think two things: Jim (Calhoun) being back and Kemba Walker playing the best basketball of his career; flat out, are the things that strike me with them lately."
Former UConn teammate Shabazz Napier: "I just think he's so happy that we're in the position we are, knowing a lot of people didn't believe we'd be here. He's a great person. He became a big brother to me. I'm just glad I met him, and he's a great friend. Everyone on the team tells me I'm blessed to be in the position I am just because of who he is and where he's going."
Kemba Walker quotes
Walker on his sophomore year of high school: "I didn't play a lot last year, but I learned a lot. I learned a lot about leadership and being a leader."
Walker on his focus between his sophomore and junior years of high school: "I was more of a defense-first guard. I didn't really look for my offense, but this summer I worked on it."
Walker after UConn's Elite Eight win over Missouri in 2009: "I like to play at a fast pace. I was able to keep my composure."
Walker during his freshman year: "That's my job. Bring some energy."