Kemba: 'It's Gonna Be a Fun Year for Basketball in Connecticut'
"Who'd win 1-on-1, you or Jeremy Lamb?" one kid asked. (Lamb's beaten him twice, Walker noted. "This stays between us, right?" he asked the 200 or so people in the audience).
"Were you laughing at (Gary McGhee) in your head when he hit the floor?" asked another. ("I didn't see him fall until I watched it after the game," Walker replied.)
"Who was the most inspiring coach you've ever had?" asked another. (All of them, Kemba said, not mentioning any specifically.)
OK, they weren't all hard-hitting. "What's your favorite color?", "What's your favorite food?", "What's your shoe size?", "Who was your favorite team to play against?" and "What's your middle name?" were some others. (Answers: Red, pizza, 11 1/2, Pitt and "I can't answer that, sorry.").
It was all good fun as Walker held about a 45-minute Q&A inside the Vine Family Auditorium, then signed autographs, chatted with kids and did a little individual instruction inside the Beckerman Gymnasium afterwards.
Beforehand, I had a chance to ask Kemba a few questions of my own.
Q: Do you enjoy doing things like this?
KW: "All the time. This is my opportunity to give back to the community. Not every kid gets to be around me or other pros.”
Q: Do you try to give kids a specific message at these clinics?
KW: “I just tell them to work hard, that’s all you can do. Not everybody’s going to make it in basketball, so just work hard in whatever you do.”
Q: How tough is it to finally realize your dream of being drafted by an NBA team, only to be locked out by the league's owners?
KW: “It sucks, but it happens. I understand. At the same time, I’ve got to stay positive, just trust … the Players Association to make the best deal possible for us, so my future can be good.”
Q: Who at UConn can step up and fill the leadership void left by your early departure?
KW: “A lot of guys. Jeremy (Lamb), Shabazz (Napier) definitely. He’s a guy who’s going to take on that role. Alex (Oriakhi), he’s matured a lot. There’s a few guys that are going to step up. Those freshmen are now sophomores. They’ve been through a crazy, unbelievable season. They know what to expect. They’ve got the young guys working hard right now. It’s going to be a fun year for basketball in Connecticut.”
Q: Will there be an NBA season this year?
KW: “Me, personally, I’m staying positive. So I’m saying, ‘Yeah.’ I think we’re going to be able to put together a good deal. I hope so.”
Walker is currently living in Long Island and working out at a nearby gym with former Hofstra star Charles Jenkins.