Kemba Walker has a new home. The Charlotte Bobcats used the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft to take Walker, widely considered the second-best point guard in the draft after Duke's Kyrie Irving (who went first overall to Cleveland).
Thursday night ends weeks and months of speculation about where Walker would land. Some mock drafts had him going as high as No. 5 to Toronto and as low as No. 13 to Phoenix. In the end, he split the difference, going ninth to Charlotte.
ESPN's Jay Bilas offered this scouting report on Walker:
Walker is tremendous in transition. He's got great speed and at his best in the open floor. He's improved using his speed driving in straight lines, both in half-court … and full-court situations. And he's a terrific athlete; he has a 39.5-inch vertical leap. ... Walker plays on both ends, he's an incredibly tough competitor. … He's much stronger than he appears … he can go right into a defender's body, create contact and finish a play.
He has a terrific change of pace, he can pass it, he can score with the ball in his hands, and he can go off the ball as well. We saw it time after time during the season, what a clutch performer he was. …
The young man can play -- but he's small. He's about six-feet tall. He's bigger than DJ Augustin with the Bobcats, he's bigger than Jameer Nelson, so it's not that he can't make it at that size. I tend to bet on a guy like Kemba Walker that's got a tremendous heart … and he was the second-best point guard prospect in this draft.
Walker spoke with ESPN moments after hearing his name called. Understandably, he was equal parts elated and shocked.
"Right now it's a surreal feeling, he said. "This is my dream. I've waited a long time for this moment and it's finally here. When I went to Charlotte to work out with those guys (Michael Jordan and Coach Silas) … I left there and I felt good."
When Walker was asked the question he's no doubt heard hundreds of time this spring -- how does he make up for his lack of height -- he didn't try to make excuses. "Now that I'm with Charlotte I'm going to try to bring a winning attitude. I'm going to work extremely hard to get better. I'm not 6-3 or 6-4 but I got a big heart."
As Jim Calhoun and UConn can attest, a big heart goes a lot farther than a big frame.