Kemba Walker, the Bronx native who starred at Rice High School in Harlem, is an unlikely NBA superstar. Listed at 6-1 and 184 pounds, the point guard packs a mighty scoring punch, averaging a career-best 25.8 points this season (ninth in the league) for the Charlotte Hornets.
“I just try to be as efficient as possible,” Walker told reporters after Sunday’s 119-107 victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. “I just play the game depending on how teams are guarding me. Whether I’m scoring or trying to get my teammates involved, someway, somehow, try to make the best play possible.”
The manner in which Walker carries himself led teammate Tony Parker to compare the two-time All-Star to one of Parker’s legendary former San Antonio Spurs teammates.
“Very humble, very unselfish, a little bit like Tim Duncan,” said Parker, himself a six-time All-Star who helped Duncan and the Spurs win four championships. “Kemba has got that same attitude.”
Walker, who admits to studying Parker earlier in his career, is appreciative of learning from the 2007 NBA Finals MVP.
“We share a lot about my experiences,” Parker told reporters. “When to shoot, when to pass, find that happy middle, like a scoring guard. I think, this year, he has been playing maybe his best basketball.”
Bismack Biyombo, a fellow top-10 selection in the 2011 NBA Draft with Walker who spent his first four seasons with Charlotte before returning this year, chalks up Walker’s success to his work ethic and weathering some losing seasons with the franchise that drafted him.
“[Walker is a] constantly hard worker, a winner. I think that’s what defines him,” Biyombo told amNewYork. “Plus, going through the process of losing, you get to learn a lot of lessons. You grow faster, you understand sacrifice, and I think he’s been through it all. It’s good to see good things start happening. It has to happen, when you work hard in life, good things always happen no matter what.”
When asked why his struggled against the Hornets’ pick and roll Sunday night, Knicks head coach David Fizdale responded with an exasperated laugh, and simply said “Kemba Walker!”
“He is an absolute nightmare to defend,” Fizdale told reporters. “I know a lot of bigs lose sleep having him come downhill on you. The fact that he can raise from anywhere on the floor, he can get to any place on the floor that he wants, he finishes in the paint with 7-footers. He’s a really unique talent.”