'A Great Play by a Great Player'
First off, let's talk about 'The Play' -- the one you'll be seeing on highlight shows for years to come.
Of all of Kemba Walker's 31 points on Wednesday night -- of all the remarkable drives to the hoop for scoop shots and reverse layups, sprinkled in with the occasional fallaway 'J' -- none were more remarkable than the two he scored on a play he apparently perfected on the playgrounds of the Bronx but never had the guts to attempt in a real game.
Just over three minutes into the latter half, Walker, guarded tightly by Georgetown's Henry Sims up near the top of the key, and with the shot clock winding down, leapt forward, threw the ball off the backboard, caught it in mid-air and sank a six-footer.
Jim Calhoun said he may not have ever seen such a play before, though he thought he recalled a West Virginia player trying it -- and missing -- many years ago.
Personally, I think I recall Isiah Thomas do something similar a long time ago. If memory serves me correct, Isiah -- the former Piston, not the current Washington Husky -- threw a ball off the backboard from about 12 feet out and either dunked it or laid it in. It was more for show than anything else.
Walker's, however, was more impressive, considering its importance (in the midst of a 9-0 UConn run in which they'd regain the lead) and the distance from where he tossed the ball up.
"I thought he was throwing it too hard," said Jamal Coombs-McDaniel. "I had no idea what he was doing. It was a great play by a great player. He's playing out of his mind right now. When he's playing like that, we're tough to beat."
Here's what Kemba had to say about it:
"I had an 'iso' with Sims. I stepped back, it was just me and the rim. I just threw it off the backboard and got it back on the way down."
"He was on my side, and it was just me and the basket. That was the only play he gave me."
"I did it a lot in pick-up, never had the courage to do it in a game. But it was there. I'm just happy I made it …"
"It was the only play available. At the time, there was nobody in the middle, everybody was on the outside of the paint, he was on my side and that's what I saw."
Not solely because of that play but because of his tremendous all-around game -- 31 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds -- as well as his terrific effort a few days earlier in a win over Providence, Walker is right back in the player of the year debate.
As in national player of the year, not just Big East.
"I keep hearing, 'Well, he couldn't be the Big East player of the year,'" Calhoun said. "No, you're probably right. He might be the national player of the year."
He might be. And while I've never really heard anyone suggest Walker couldn't be the conference player of the year, there's no doubt guys like Notre Dame's Ben Hansborough and G'town's Austin Freeman had entered the conversation in recent weeks.
Right now, I'm not sure how Walker couldn't win that award. And he's right on Jimmer's and Sullinger's heels again for national POY, IMO.