Chicago Bulls guard Richard Hamilton (32) looks to a pass as Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker (1) defends during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Chicago on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
The UConn men's basketball season was a disappointment, for sure. But it could've been much, much worse; they could've been the Charlotte Bobcats, the NBA's worst franchise where Kemba Walker spent his rookie season learning the ins and outs of dealing with failure on a near-daily basis.
Charlotte finished the season at 7-59 and the worst winning percentage (.106) in NBA history. On Monday, Walker was back on campus meeting with coach Jim Calhoun, perhaps in the hopes of recapturing some of the magic that catapulted him into the top-10 of the 2011 NBA Draft. Or maybe Walker was looking for a little familiarity after a long rookie season.
"I felt like I got a lot better," Walker said Monday as he left Calhoun's office, according to the Hartford Courant. "But with all the losing, it was a little frustrating. … It was a pretty good year for me, individually," he said. "The triple-double I had (on Jan. 28) was probably the game where [I knew I belonged] — a good, all-around game."
But Walker's departure left a leadership and scoring void on the Huskies, one that was too big for Jeremy Lamb, Andre Drummond, Roscoe Smith or Alex Oriakhi to bridge. Incidentally, all four players have left the program, either for the greener pastures of the NBA or for other college programs.
Despite a down year for the Huskies, one that was punctuated by the news that UConn is now ineligible for the 2013 postseason because of substandard Academic Progress Rates, Walker was right to leave after his junior season. He was the best player in college, had just won a national title, and his game was ready for the NBA. And 12 months later, Lamb and Drummond are following in his footsteps, just with fewer individual accolades. Nonetheless, the recent exodus shouldn't be mistaken for a program on the decline.
"Every program goes through it," Walker said. "Every program has a rough year."
As for what the latest Huskies to enter the NBA Draft can expect, Walker offered this: "The thing I tell guys is, 'be ready at all times because you never know when your name is going to be called. It's a completely different level of basketball. In the NBA, everybody is good. ...
"Jeremy's going to be fine. It's just a matter of how hard he works, how badly he wants it. He can be a good player," Walker said of Lamb. And Drummond, who is physically gifted but extremely raw, Walker added: "He's got a lot of potential, but he's got a lot to learn."