We’re here at Gampel Pavilion where UConn guard Kemba Walker made it official at an afternoon press conference: He’s leaving school and entering his name into the NBA Draft.
“There’s a lot of speculation about me going to the NBA,” Walker said as he began his press conference. “I want to confirm everything. I’ll be giving up my senior season and going on to the NBA.”
Walker thanked his teammates, his family and his coach.
“I want to thank coach (Jim) Calhoun for turning me into a man,” Walker said.
The junior All-American, who just led the Huskies to the national championship, obviously has the blessing of his coach.
“He’s ready to move on as a man. He’s ready to move on as a basketball player,” Calhoun said.
His timing is perfect, Calhoun joked.
“We just don’t have a scholarship for him. So it’s time for him to move on,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun said later that he’d probably find one if he needed to. Of course, that’s not necessary. Walker says he hasn’t hired an agent yet but will very soon. He’s not coming back.
“He’s just completed the finest basketball season in the history of this university. One-hundred and eleven years, I believe it is,” Calhoun said. “He’s done everything humanly possible, in my opinion, that he could possibly do including a national championship.”
– As far as UConn SG Jeremy Lamb, who some have speculated might test the draft waters, Calhoun says that’s not the case.
“Jeremy right now has three weeks of class and then he’s going to start his weight training program, getting ready for the 19-and-under (USA Basketball team),” Calhoun said. “I’ve talked to both him and his parents.”
Lamb might take part in UConn’s intensive May session so that he has time off in June to be in Colorado Springs, Colo., to try out for that U19 group.
– As for his future, Calhoun says he hasn’t officially decided what he’s going to do about the retirement question, though it seems he’s leaning toward coming back.
“I haven’t made any decisions anyway,” Calhoun said.
The 68-year-old coach (soon to be 69) knows he will have to leave at some point.
“This program will always be a big part of me. And there will come a time when I won’t be part of this program,” Calhoun said. “And I can live with that.”
Calhoun admitted he really didn’t have time after last season to really think about retirement. The Huskies were getting hammered in recruiting (with opposing coaches implying that Calhoun wouldn’t be back) and Calhoun had to act fast.
“I didn’t have time last year,” Calhoun said. “We wouldn’t have gotten Roscoe (Smith). We certainly wouldn’t have gotten Shabazz (Napier).”