Walker Never Thought He'd Be A Wizard
NEWPORT, R.I. - Bill Walker was a tad confused when the Washington Wizards drafted him No. 47 overall in last summer's draft but he had a good idea where he'd wind up - anywhere but Washington.
"I didn't work out with them. I knew it wasn't possible that I would go there," Walker said on Wednesday from Salve Regina University, where the Boston Celtics are training to defend their NBA championship, "All I know is they wanted me here."
The Wizards immediately swapped the pick to Boston for a nice, six-figure check without giving it much thought. Some - including Memphis General Manager Chris Wallace - consider Walker a possible steal in the draft since it wasn't too long ago that Walker was ranked one of the best players in the country.
Walker grew up with O.J. Mayo, the No. 3 pick of the NBA draft, in Huntington, W.Va., and played with him at North College Hill High School in Cincinnati. At Kansas State, he teamed with Michael Beasley, the second overall pick. And, before injuries derailed him - he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee (in 2003) and left knee (in 2007) - Walker was once on the same path as his two former teammates.
"This is all our dreams, no matter how we got here. Right now, we're on a mission to make our mark," Walker said.
After averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds as a redshirt freshman last season at Kansas State, the 6-foot-6 forward was considered a possible lottery pick before suffering a knee injury during a workout with Golden State less than two weeks before the draft. The injury pushed the redshirt freshman out of the first round, but he elected to stay in the draft.
"Circumstances happened for me to be in the second round. I don't feel that I'm a second round talent at all," said Walker, who had his third surgery in five years last July. "Circumstances changed everything. I don't second guess my decision. I feel that I have an NBA game and I made the best decision. I'm with the right team. I'll learn how to play the game right. I hope I can make a career out of it."
Walker is learning quickly about the NBA during training camp, where he is sometimes matched up against NBA Finals MVP Paul Pierce. "A lot of guys don't get to come to an organization like this, with these kind of players, to have a chance to win [a championship]," Walker said. "I'm thankful for the opportunity. It's a grind. It's totally different than anything that I've done. Just the speed of the game. They throw a lot of stuff at you. You've just got to adjust."
Walker likely won't see much playing time with the Celtics, but he wasn't ready to say that the rookie of the year will go to either Beasley or Mayo. "I heard Greg Oden is going to be rookie of the year," Walker said, mentioning that he faced Oden often in AAU. "He's a monster. He's the man. I'm going with Greg Oden."
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