Kemba Walker: This UConn Husky Deserves the Player of the Year Award

Dan CondieContributor IIIMarch 28, 2011

Kemba Walker
Kemba WalkerHarry How/Getty Images

The UConn Huskies' Kemba Walker deserves the National Player of the Year award for the same reason LeBron James won the MVP last year, and why Derrick Rose will win it this year: Versatility.

Walker does it all on offense. He can take anyone off the dribble and then stop and cut back on a dime, leaving defenders on the hardwood before dropping a 20-footer through the nylon. His scoring abilities demand respect and attention (Walker forces double-teams). Kemba does a great job finding the open man when the double/triple-team comes.

Jimmer Fredette fans will be the first to tell you that Jimmer does all these things on offense too, but did it more consistently throughout the season than Walker.

Fine, you can absolutely make that point. Fredette may very well be the No. 1 offensive player in the NCAA, but the train stops there.

As Rick Reilly so delicately put it, "I've seen dead people play better defense. At least they occasionally trip people."

Harsh words, but is he wrong?

When UConn played Arizona, the Huskies were up 63-57 with 2:26 left to play in the game. Arizona had the ball, and, on a pass to LaMont Jones, Walker made a hustle play to redirect the ball, deflecting off of Jones' leg and giving Connecticut the ball back.

This is arguably the game-deciding play, because Arizona ended the game down by two with possession to take the last shot. Had Kemba played off of his man to avoid the foul, who knows how the game would have ended?

Compare that to the last minute of the BYU/Florida game.

The game was tied at 68-68 after BYU's Kyle Collinsworth went 1-for-2 on free throws and Florida rebounded the ball with 0:48 seconds left.

Florida took the game clock down to 0:25, when Kenny Boynton missed a jumper for the lead. Irving Walker came out of nowhere uncontested to get the offensive rebound.

Whose man could that be? Oh right. Jimmer's. So then Florida got the last shot of the game and another chance to seal the deal.

"Jimmer and the Fred-ettes" lost to Florida, if not solely, then partially due to Jimmer's play on the offensive side slumping down where his defense one resides. 

Will he play in the NBA? Of course he will.

Is he the best overall player in college basketball? That's a solid "no."

That spot is filled, at least right now, by Kemba Walker.