STORRS, Conn. — Connecticut’s Kemba Walker says the school’s decision to put his name and number on the wall of its basketball arena helped him decide it was time to head to the NBA.
“I think from that point out it did, because it was like coach just kicked me out,” the junior All-American said. “It says 2008 to 2011 (on the banner), so it was like he’s (saying), ‘Let’s get him out of here.'”
Walker announced Tuesday he will enter the June draft. He said he has not hired an agent, but has been talking to them.
“There’s no chance that I’m coming back,” Walker said before joking: “Coach, like he said, he doesn’t have a scholarship for me.”
The 6-foot-1 guard led the Huskies to a 32-9 record, including an 11-0 postseason run that ended with a national championship. Walker is expected to be a first-round pick, and perhaps the second guard chosen behind Duke’s Kyrie Irving.
Walker said he’s been motivated by criticism that he’s too short and won’t be able to guard players in the NBA.
“Hopefully, I can go into the NBA and once again prove all the doubters wrong, like I’ve been doing my whole life” he said.
Walker averaged 23.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists during his junior season. He scored a school record 965 points, accounting for 45 percent of the Huskies’ offense.
Walker on Tuesday thanked coach Jim Calhoun “for turning me into a man.” Calhoun had advised Walker to leave.
“He’s ready to move on as a basketball player, both emotionally and physically,” Calhoun said. “He just completed the finest basketball season in the history of this university — in 111 years I believe it is. He’ done everything humanly possible in my opinion that he possibly can do, including winning a national championship.”
Walker came into the season averaging just under 12 points, but quickly established himself as the team’s unquestioned leader, scoring 31, 30 and 29 points in powering the Huskies to the Maui Invitational title in November.
He scored 30 or more points 11 times during the season, and 20 or more points 27 times, winning the Bob Cousy award as the nation’s top point guard.
Last week, Walker became the 14th Connecticut player to have his name and number placed on the “Huskies of Honor” wall in Gampel Pavilion — the first to receive the honor while he was still in school. The honor means any future Huskies will have to ask Walker for permission if they want to wear his No. 15.
Walker was on track to graduate by the end of this summer, and said completing his degree is still a priority, though it may not happen that quickly.
“I’m going to take all the time I need to graduate,” he said.
Walker is the 13th Connecticut player to leave school early. Center Hasheem Thabeet was the last in 2009.
Walker finishes his career in seventh place on the school’s scoring list with 1,783 points in 111 games.
His departure means Connecticut will return four starters and nine players from its national championship team next season. The Huskies also will add another point guard in Ryan Boatright, a blue chip recruit from Illinois.
Walker said he wished he could stay to see how much that team improves, “but like I said, it’s just time.”
Calhoun said no matter what they accomplish next season, the Huskies will miss Walker, as a player and a leader.
“I’m starting to miss him now, actually,” Calhoun said. “So I’ll probably start yelling at him just to feel at home.”