To the New York Knicks' Bill Walker, We Hardly Know Ye

david weintraubContributor IMarch 2, 2010

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 20:  Bill Walker #13 (R) and Michael Beasley #30 of the Kansas State Wildcats stand on court against the USC Trojans during the Midwest Region first round of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on March 20, 2008 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Kansas State won 80-67. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

As a high school junior Bill Walker was already a superstar, having been selected to numerous All-America teams before his senior year. 

Before his high school career ended he was the first player to attend the Adidas ABCD Camp in New Jersey three times, and won the MVP his final season, an award given out to the likes of Lebron James and Kobe Bryant.

He played alongside Ohio State Freshman Greg Oden in summer ball, and competed against high school phenom and fellow West Virginian O.J. Mayo in dunk contests. 

Some scouts compared him favorably to Vince Carter, except Walker was believed to have a better handle on the ball. 

At 6'6", 220, before arriving in Manhattan, Kansas to play alongside another star talent in Michael Beasley for Coach Bob Huggins, Walker was about as much a sure thing as a high school kid basketball player could be.

Other than some minor grade issues, there was only one question about Walker: Would a knee injury he suffered during his freshman year of high school hinder his performance?

Judging by his ability to soar over defenders soon after surgery, and throw down highlight dunks during practice, the knee did not seem to bother Walker at all. 

Maybe it's because he was young, and the fear that comes with age had not set in yet?  Who knows?  Whatever the case, Walker and Beasley were destined for stardom during the short time they were both going to be at KSU.

The looming question of how well Walker's knee would hold up was answered almost immediately as he re-injured the leg during the sixth game of his college career against Texas A & M. Walker would miss the remainder of the season, and would have to wait at least one more year before getting back to the hardwood. 

When his sophomore (redshirt freshman) season finally did arrive, Walker was back, albeit a slightly heavier version of his previous self. 

Now the question of whether he would still be the high-flying, dynamic player he was before two ACL surgeries was being asked by NBA scouts, some of which would have drafted Walker straight out of high school. 

He had to wonder if he missed his chance.

The following season, Walker seemed a little timid out of the gate, while Beasley was lighting it up, staking his claim as the best player in all of college basketball. But by no means was Walker a sideshow. By the end of his second season he seemed to gain a lot of confidence, combining with Beasley to score 75 points against Baylor (31 for Walker, with 11 rebounds). 

In the 2008 NCAA Tournament Kansas State knocked out Mayo's USC team; Walker contributed 22 pts, before falling to Wisconsin in the second round (Walker 18).

It seemed Bill Walker was back on most scouts' radars, and the knee was feeling much better. 

With Beasley declaring for the NBA Draft, and Walker realizing he could probably get hurt again, he followed his teammate out the door towards the professional ranks.

It was the right decision too because during the summer of 2008, while working out for the Golden State Warriors, Walker suffered yet another knee injury. This time it was a torn meniscus, and while not catastrophic, it forced Walker to be a bystander for the remainder of the summer workouts. 

Word spread about his injury, and while Walker would certainly be able to play basketball again very soon, NBA teams were not going to spend First Round dollars on a guy who already had suffered three major knee injuries before he could legally buy a beer.

Walker had to sit and watch on draft day as names he had once been mentioned in the same breath with like Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, Eric Gordon, and Kevin Love were all selected in the top half of the 2008 Draft, with Beasley being selected No. 2 overall. 

It was not a complete loss for him though, as the Washington Wizards selected him 47th, butsubsequently traded him to the Boston Celtics for cash considerations, a team who had been paying attention to Walker.

Immediately the Celtics relegated Walker to their NBDL team in Utah, but he was recalled back to the team in January of 2009, though he was not a factor.  

The following season the Celtics sent Walker back to the NBDL to play for the Maine Red Clams during the 2009 season, where he could at least get some time on the court. 

Walker was not exactly in the Celtics plans as they were busy winning a championship, then attempting to repeat. However, Walker was never down, or negative about having to play in the "D-League," commenting at one point, "It’s the reason why they created the D-League, so that instead of having guys sitting on the bench and not staying in shape, they can go down there and play.” 

Pretty much the perfect attitude for a guy trying to make it, which is rare amongst players like Walker who were considered phenoms.

In December of 2009 the Celtics brought Walker back to the squad, where he saw no more than six minutes in any game; hardly enough time to even audition for another team.

Fortunately for Walker, his luck would start to turn, as he once again was traded, this time to the New York Knicks as part of a package deal, which saw high flying little-man Nate Robinson land in Boston. 

Maybe Walker would finally get an opportunity to showcase his skills?

Luckily for Walker he was paired with Knicks Coach Mike D'Antoni, who has basically been conducting live, in-game tryouts for all of the current Knicks players remaining on the roster, including Tracy McGrady, who was dealt to the Knicks in what appears to be a move to clear salary. 

McGrady, known around the league as a one time, high-flying small forward himself, has also been plagued with knee and back injuries throughout his career. Coincidentally, since the two trades transpired, Walker outscored McGrady against his former Celtics team seven points to six.

In the few games Walker has played for the Knicks he has reached a career high in points (21), minutes played (35), and just about every other statistic available. He has been a team spark plug, having performed an array of highlight reel dunks previously seen only during his days in High School and at Kansas St. 

It seems Walker is making the most of his opportunity to show the Knicks, or any other team watching, he still has a lot to offer. 

Because his knee injuries happened at such a young age, it's quite possible Walker's body has healed completely, and has moved past any future problems, but one never knows. 

Walker seems to play fearlessly, like a player who has never been injured, which is a fantastic sign for himself. So many players cannot overcome the mental aspect of a major injury, which forever hinders their ability to shine.

Maybe because Walker has been proving himself for so long, and overcoming injuries since his freshman year of high school, he is immune to it all.

Ironically, it might because of this very style that he'll land back on the surgeon's table, but it also keeps teams interested in him.

Whatever the case may be, in just a few games with the Knicks, Walker is getting fans out of their seats, wanting to see more of what he can do. And maybe, just maybe, Walker is coming back into his own, alongside all of the other great young NBA players he used to more than hold his own against, but often out-shining.

I know the Knicks, their fans, and certainly Walker are hoping this is the case. 

All I know, is as a fan of both college and pro basketball, Bill Walker, it's nice getting to know ye...again.


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