Calhoun, Ollie Talk About Walker - NBC Connecticut
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Calhoun, Ollie Talk About Walker

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It's been 78 days since UConn defeated Butler in the national championship game. Two days from now, the best player in college basketball last season will officially begin his professional basketball journey. The NBA Draft is Thursday night and Kemba Walker will in all likelihood be a top-15 pick.

    We don't know exactly where he ends up and when, but that's what mock drafts are for. Walker could go as early as No. 5 to the Raptors, or be around when the Jazz select 12th. Whatever happens, Walker is considered the second-best point guard in the draft after Duke's Kyrie Irving.

    Even though Walker's ability to score is largely responsible for UConn's success last season, he will have to expand his game in the NBA. With the Huskies, it was pretty straightforward.

    "The decision-making with us was simple," coach Jim Calhoun told the Hartford Courant, adding it was essentially as easy as telling Walker to "get the ball, go as far as you can, as long as you can, and make a play."

    UConn assistant Kevin Ollie, who played 13 NBA seasons, thinks mental toughness -- even more than physical ability -- is the key to transitioning from college to the NBA.

    "Everybody [in the NBA] is physically gifted and gifted basketball-wise, or else they wouldn't be there, Ollie said. "But it's getting over the mental hurdles you deal with. Kemba is just not used to that, but that doesn't mean he won't be. Those guys aren't going to automatically respect him and say, 'Here comes the national championship point guard.' You have to earn respect. And that doesn't come with lip service. It comes with putting in work every day."

    Ollie also said that even though Kemba will play the same position in the NBA as he did at UConn, he will be expected to do more than fill up the basket.

    "Point guards at that level, yeah, you're a facilitator, but with the shot clock there, you have 24 seconds and you're going to have the ball in your hands and you're going to have to make a play," he said. "Sometimes you have to score out of necessity, and all he did at the University of Connecticut is going to come into play."

    For Calhoun, Kemba's jump to the next level comes down to two words: decision-making.

    "That's going to be the big thing. It's not like all the shots you take — and he took good shots this year — are good shots. Now, he's throwing to whomever, and that's the play he needs to make at the time. And he'll be reminded of that, I'm sure, by whoever his coach his: 'That's the guy we pay $30 million a year, and you need to get him the ball in that situation.'"