Stop all the Naismith Player of the Year talk. Right now, don’t even consider him for Big East Player of the Year. When it comes to best players on his team in 2011, it is almost time to start considering someone else.
Kemba Walker is proving to be Mr. November, after all.
Back in November Kemba Walker went to Maui and put together a string of prolific games that burst him into National Player of the Year talks. He was one man, single-handedly taking on entire teams. In Maui, Kemba Walker was Jim Calhoun’s Pete Maravich. Just give the ball to Kemba and the other UConn players could watch in awe.
But Kemba Walker was never a great scorer or a shooter. His first two years at UConn, he was known for being a fleet-footed point guard, who used his speed and ball-handling to penetrate and score.
Back in November, in Maui and for a string of games in early December versus lower-tier Division I teams, Kemba Walker was a great scorer and shooter. For seven straight games Walker shot above 50 percent from the field. Analysts were in awe of his stellar three-point shooting. This was of course a player that just the year before averaged 15.9 points per game and shot just 33.9 percent from behind the arc.
Since then he seems to be forcing the issue, like the actor that was once cast in a supporting role now trying to be a leading man in a big-budget summer blockbuster.
Only one time since the streak of seven games in late November and early December has Walker shot above 50 percent and that was against lowly DePaul, a team that has yet to win a conference game. In the Big East, Walker is averaging just over 20 points per game, but he is shooting an abysmal 36 percent from the field and just 27 percent from three-point range. Overall, Walker is shooting a pedestrian 33.8 percent from behind the arc, nearly identical to his average last year.
For fans, watching Kemba Walker in 2011 has been a frustrating experience. He seems to be trying to do too much and it is affecting his mental game. For instance, in last night’s win over DePaul, Walker did the unthinkable—after being fouled while shooting a three-pointer, he missed three consecutive free throws.
Yes, this is being critical. Most did not expect UConn to be relevant in 2011, especially after their lackluster effort in 2010, where they lost in the second round of the NIT. Now UConn is ranked No. 7 in the country and Kemba Walker is the sole reason for this.
It also could be argued that the reason why Kemba has struggled for the past two months is because he is the focal point of every opposing coach's strategy when they play UConn. Defenses are clamping down on him and the Big East is notorious for physical play.
Maybe he is worn out or just maybe he is trying to be someone or something he is not. For now it is time to get back to the basics to do what he does best and that is run Kemba, run.