Mar 16, 2023; Birmingham, AL, USA; Houston Cougars forward Jarace Walker (25) drives to the basket against Northern Kentucky Norse forward Chris Brandon (21) during the second half in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at Legacy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Jarace Walker says Houston Cougars prepared him for next level as he heads for NBA
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Houston Cougars basketball freshman forward Jarace Walker made it official following UH’s Sweet Sixteen loss to Miami on Friday night.
The New Freedom, Pennsylvania native said he will declare for the NBA Draft and is ready to play professionally after just one season with Houston.
“I’ll be declaring [for the NBA Draft] … I feel like that will be what’s best for me,” Walker told reporters in a media scrum in front of his locker.
Walker had 16 points on 4-of-16 shooting from the field against the Miami Hurricanes. He also had 11 rebounds, five assists and four blocks in Houston’s loss.
The declaration from Walker is anything but a surprise. When he first committed and signed to Houston, it was expected for him to leave for the NBA after his freshman season. There are several mock drafts for the upcoming NBA Draft that have him as high as a top-five pick.
Earlier in the season, head coach Kelvin Sampson answered a fan’s question during his weekly radio show that Walker was going to leave for the NBA once the year ended. The program did not allow Walker to answer any questions relating to playing professionally after those comments until Friday.
Walker played in 36 of Houston’s 37 games this year. He averaged 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds on 46.5% shooting from the field for the Cougars. In UH’s three NCAA Tournament games, Walker’s numbers rose to 13 points, nine rebounds and four blocks per outing.
While Walker’s time with Houston was limited, he feels Sampson and the Cougars’ program taught him invaluable lessons he will carry onto the next level.
“Just that edge, that grit, how hard I play now. It is all things I didn’t really do before I came here,” Walker said. “Coach Sampson instilled that in me, so just keeping that hard hat on, always ready to work each and every day just to get better even when I don’t feel like it. I feel like I will keep that with me forever.”
Walker believes he made the best decision joining the Cougars this season, he said.
“That’s what this school does,” Walker said. “It just prepares you for the next level just in terms of how hard it is. How fast the game is played, what the coaches expect from you. That is really why I came here. Just to get prepared for the next level and I feel like it definitely got that done for me.”