Top NBA Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part 9: Prospects #21-25November 13, 2015
A native of Stow, Ohio, just outside of Akron, David Walker turning down scholarship offers from the likes of Cleveland State, Kent State, Youngstown State, St. Francis (Pa.) and Gardner Webb to attend Colonial conference-based Northeastern in Boston.
Listed at just 176 pounds going into his freshman season, despite standing 6'6, Walker's skinny frame likely played a role in him not drawing attention from bigger schools despite being an all-state player in talent-rich Ohio.
Walker stepping into a significant role at Northeastern already as a freshman, becoming a starter early in the season and averaging 30 minutes per game in his debut campaign, earning him a spot on the CAA's All-Rookie team. His numbers were fairly modest as a junior, averaging 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per-40 minutes, but had a number of very impressive performances against ACC opponents (22 points, 4 assists in a win at Florida State, 15 points 7 assists vs Notre Dame) that hint at good things to come in his final season of eligibility.
Northeastern won the CAA conference tournament last year as the #3 seed, making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 24 years. They gave Notre Dame all they could handle in the opening round, in a dramatic NCAA Tournament game as a #14 seed, being down by two points with under 30 seconds left to play.
Walker has good size for either guard spot at 6'6, and has filled out his frame over the years nicely, now tipping the scales at 196 pounds according to Northeastern's roster. He is a very good athlete on top of that, quick, with nice burst in the open court, and impressive explosiveness, and may not have reached his full potential yet from a physical standpoint.
Walker plays both on and off the ball for Northeastern, even if he is rarely the one tasked with bringing the ball up the floor for them. He serves as both a floor spacer thanks to his strong perimeter shooting ability, and a facilitator in the half-court who can play pick and roll, use dribble hand-offs, and attack in the open court when given the opportunity.
Walker is dangerous in spot-up situations, where he can make open looks (he hit 41% of his catch and shoot jumpers last season), or attack closeouts with strong footwork and a quick first step. He has good range on his jumper and is a confident shooter, often hitting shots from NBA range last season, and converting 39% of his overall 3-pointers. He has some room to clean up his mechanics and become an even more fluid shooter, as he at times tends to contort his body sideways and shoot somewhat of a push shot, something that becomes more of an issue when he's pulling up off the dribble. He has excellent natural touch, though, as evidenced by the 87% he shot from the free throw line last year.
Despite standing 6'6, Walker can also legitimately play the point guard position as well, as he has an excellent feel for the game and is both a highly creative and instinctive passer. He can handle the ball with either hand, will operate at different speeds nicely, has an extra gear he can get to, and shows good potential on the pick and roll, where he can whip the ball to different spots on the court, particularly to the roll man diving to the rim.
While Walker is a good athlete overall, and will come up with some highlight reel caliber plays at times finishing above the rim impressively off two feet, that hasn't translated to being a very efficient scorer inside the arc. He's never hit the 50% mark from 2-point range in his college career thus far, and doesn't get to the free throw line very often (4.2 times per-40) to compensate.
Walker is a very average finisher inside the paint, hitting just 31 of his 67 attempts (46%) on the season. He relies too much on his natural touch here, going up very soft at times with floaters and scoop shots, and seems to avoid contact with his somewhat narrow frame. NBA scouts will wonder whether it's a lack of strength or toughness that prevents him from utilizing his athleticism better inside the lane, as he looks capable of being far aggressive in these situations, particularly considering the level of competition he plays at.
Defensively, Walker has nice versatility, often asked to defend 1s, 2s and 3s for Northeastern, sometimes in the same game. He has good size, solid length, and the quickness to move his feet, close out effectively on the perimeter, and get in the passing lanes, averaging 1.6 steals per-40 in his college career. While he's quite a solid defender at the CAA level, he will undoubtedly have to improve dramatically in a few different areas to effectively make the transition to playing against pros.
Walker's lack of strength is an issue, as he has real trouble getting over the top of screens at times. He lacks a degree of aggressiveness here as well, which is reflected in how shockingly few fouls he's committed over the course of his college career, just 80 in 3449 minutes, or one every 43 minutes he's on the floor. Scouts will certainly want to see a little more nastiness from Walker, as he's not immune to getting pushed around or getting burned off the dribble.
With games against the likes of Michigan State, N.C. State, Miami and Harvard, scouts will have a few opportunities to see Walker competing against strong opposition outside of CAA conference play. 6'6 guards who can handle, pass and shoot are always going to get looks from the pro ranks, and with a strong senior year, Walker has a chance to put himself firmly on the NBA radar screen.
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