Kemba Walker Gets My Vote for National POY
I'm voting for Kemba Walker.
This wasn't the case a week ago. I was fully prepared to vote for BYU's Jimmer Fredette, who's had a remarkable season. Fredette had overtaken Walker, in my view, a few weeks ago while Walker was going through a bad shooting slump. Jared Sullinger and Nolan Smith were under strong consideration, too, and in fact may have edged ahead of Walker in my mind.
But these last few days have cemented what had been obvious back in November: no player in the country is more integral to his team than Kemba Walker. You can make an argument that that means he's the most valuable player, not necessarily the most outstanding.
But when you take the spectacular individual efforts with the multiple game-winning or, at least, game-changing shots, that adds up to national player of the year in my book.
I don't think he'll win, mind you. Smith seems to be gaining a lot of sentiment, and Fredette has had it all year. And I don't buy the argument against Fredette because he plays in a weaker conference. BYU is still 9-1, I believe, against the RPI Top 50, and has handily beaten San Diego State twice. Fredette has been their catalyst all year.
But Kemba's simply been better. And, yes, better in a better conference.
Funny thing is, I thought Walker should have shared Big East player of the year with Ben Hansbrough (and certainly can't believe he wasn't a unanimous first-team all-Big East choice). Based on Big East play solely, you can make an argument that Hansbrough, or even St. John's Dwight Hardy, deserved it over Walker.
But based on Walker's play all year, from early November to the present, there has been nobody more clutch, or more spectacular … or better.
Here's a look at Kemba's clutch shots this season:
3-10-11 Pittsburgh UConn, 76-74 Launches a step-back 18-footer that swishes through the net as time expired to send UConn to the Big East tourney semifinals.
1-17-11 Villanova UConn, 61-59 Shortly after missing two big free throws, Walker hits a running lane jumper with 2.5 seconds to play to give UConn the victory in Storrs.
1-8-11 Texas UConn, 82-81 (OT) Hit a desperation 35-footer to put UConn up 80-77, then buried a 15-footer with 5 seconds left for the game-winner.
12-31-10 South Florida UConn, 66-61 (OT) Cans a 10-foot lane jumper with 1:25 left in OT to give UConn a 62-58 lead in Hartford.
11-23-10 Michigan State UConn, 70-67 Buries a fallaway jumper with 52 seconds left and finishes with 30 points in another Maui Invitational win.
11-22-10 Wichita State UConn, 83-79 Hits a pull-up jumper with 41 seconds left to put UConn up three and cap his 29-point second half in Maui.
Labels: Kemba Walker