|ESPN.com: Draft 2011||[Print without images]|
NEW YORK -- Former UConn guard and New York City native Kemba Walker cannot wait for Thursday night's NBA draft. There is only one thing bothering him right now, he told reporters at a predraft media reception on Wednesday.
"It's definitely good to be home," Walker said. "But the draft is in New Jersey now. I wish it was at the Garden. But regardless of where it is, I'm still happy."
This year's draft will be held at the Prudential Center in Newark because Madison Square Garden is undergoing renovations.
Walker -- who led the Huskies on a magical 11-game run this spring, winning the Big East tournament and the NCAA tournament in succession -- is currently projected by ESPN draft expert Chad Ford to be the No. 7 overall pick on Thursday night by the Sacramento Kings. But there have been reports this week that Walker could slip significantly further down in the first round.
"That's the first time I heard that before," Walker said, when asked about those reports. "It doesn't matter. Those guys have no idea what's going on in the GMs' heads. I really don't care. I just want to be in the NBA."
A source told ESPN.com senior college basketball writer Andy Katz that if Walker doesn't go to Sacramento at No. 7, and that appears more unlikely according to a source with knowledge of the Kings' situation, then Walker could slide deep into the teens, possibly to the hometown Knicks at No. 17. Walker would be a candidate at No. 15 Indiana as well as No. 13 Phoenix, but so too could Jimmer Fredette for the same spots. But the Walker camp is fully prepared that he could be available for the Knicks.
Walker worked out for five NBA teams leading up to the draft: the Kings, the Utah Jazz (No. 3 and No. 12), the Toronto Raptors (No. 5), the Detroit Pistons (No. 8) and the Charlotte Bobcats (No. 9).
"I felt good about every team that I worked out for," Walker said. "I have no idea where I'm going."
The biggest concern regarding Walker's ability to succeed in the NBA is his size -- he is just 6-foot-1 and 184 pounds. He clearly can put the ball in the basket -- he averaged 23.5 points per game last season, fourth-best in the country. But some people have also questioned whether he's a good enough passer to play point guard at the next level.
"At one point in my career, people questioned whether I can score. Now people question whether I can pass the ball. It's just like, what do they want?" Walker said. "There's always been criticism towards me. ... I'm not worried about that at all. I'm pretty sure some teams in this draft are interested in me."
And whichever team ultimately drafts Walker, the Bronx native knows what kind of reception that decision will get in his hometown.
"It's gonna be unreal," Walker said, with a grin. "I'm pretty sure if I go back to the Bronx, it's gonna be crazy."Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com.