Talk hoops all year long in Luke Winn's blog, a journal of commentary, news and reader-driven discussions about the college game.
1/29/2008 09:01:00 AM
Q&A with ... Kansas State's Bill Walker
Kansas State's Bill Walker grabbed 10 points and nine rebounds in last Saturday's win over Iowa State.
Scott Sewell/Icon SMI
For the latest Q&A, I chatted with Kansas State's Bill Walker, who has helped guide the Wildcats to a surprising 4-0 start in the Big 12. The redshirt freshman swingman, who starred at Cincinnati's North College Hill High School alongside O.J. Mayo, then followed Bob Huggins to K-State, opted to remain in Manhattan when Huggs bolted for West Virginia. Walker is now averaging 15.8 points and 6.6 rebounds on the season. The following is an edited version of a phone conversation with him from last week:
Luke Winn: Some of your teammates been been referring to the Big 12 season as a "heavyweight fight" with 12 rounds left, and I heard that was your idea. Why the boxing metaphor?
Bill Walker: Because it is a heavyweight fight. It's not called the Big 12 for nothing -- it's a physical brand of basketball. And I like boxing. I'm a big Floyd Mayweather fan; I just caught that Ricky Hatton fight from last month. [Mayweather] has a swagger. He's confident about himself no matter who he's going up against.
LW: Who would win a K-State team boxing tourney? And how would [Michael] Beasley do?
BW: I'm not sure -- and I don't think I want to find out, either. Beasley is a lefty, so he's probably pretty awkward. We're both powerful guys, but he's bigger, so I'd have to out-quick him.
LW: You've been averaging 17.3 points per game in the Big 12, and you're getting back on NBA scouts' radar after being sort of written off following your ACL tear [as a true freshman]. People are saying that the 'old Bill Walker' is back; was he hiding just because of the injury?
BW: It was more me just adjusting to college basketball. People forget that I only played six games last year, so this year is just like it would be for a true freshman. I'm maximizing my shot attempts now, not taking bad shots. I'm getting more comfortable about learning from scouting reports and knowing weaknesses in defenses.
LW: You're making a lot of threes now, too [he's connected on 8-of-15 in Big 12 games]. That didn't used to be your forte when you were called "Sky" Walker. Where did this newfound accuracy come from?
BW: I like challenges. I like when people say I can't do something. That was what pushed me to go out there and do it, and to put a lot of work into my shot.
The rap sheet on me was always 'He can't shoot -- if he doesn't dunk it, he's not going to score.' Which is totally not the case. I can score from anywhere on the floor. I just hadn't had a chance to show it.
LW: People that saw your team in November and early December [when it lost to George Mason, Oregon and Notre Dame] probably wouldn't have given you much of a shot to beat Kansas on Wednesday. That may no longer be the case. How serious of a threat do you think the Jayhawks consider your team?
BW: We have seven freshmen, so there was going to be an adjustment period. When guys finally got acclimated to this type of competition, everything came together. I don't think Kansas is looking past this game. You can't -- that's how you get beat in college basketball. I know what they're trying to accomplish. They're trying to go undefeated, and they're off to a great start.
LW: Mike Beasley's mom, Fatima Smith, has been blogging for the Wichita Eagle. Have you ever read her blog?
BW: I haven't seen it. I don't read too much media stuff. She's always around our room [he lives with Beasley] policing us anyways, making sure we're eating the right things, making sure we're there when we're supposed to be there, stuff like that.
LW: She has a key to the dorm?
BW: They'll let her in. She's come over plenty of times.
LW: What's the best thing in the Walker-Beasley pad?
BW: I gave Mike 84 [points] with O.J. one game. I think Mike had like 60-something as himself, but he claimed his controller was broken.
LW: How much do you and O.J. keep in touch? You were linked together for so long in high school ...
BW: I keep in touch with O.J. a lot. I called him a few days before he played UCLA. We don't talk about basketball all that much now, though; we already hear that all day. It's just stuff about life in general, making sure we're doing the things we need to do to stay on the path we always talked about.
LW: Former shoe kingpin Sonny Vaccaro, a friend of yours and O.J.'s, has called you a 'victim' of the NBA's age-minimum rule, in that you could've entered the draft -- and been a lottery pick -- rather than going to K-State and tearing your ACL last season. Do you agree with that characterization?
BW: I just look at it as, [the NBA] took away the choice that you have, forcing you to go to college, when sometimes college isn't for everybody. I think about the fact that I can go enlist in the Army and die at the age of 18, but I can't play in the NBA. That means that they take basketball more seriously than a person's life.
LW: It was speculated at one point that you and O.J. would actually try to find a way around the rule -- by either going to Europe or some other pro league for a season, then entering the NBA draft. Did you two ever seriously consider that, or even have discussions about it with Sonny?
BW: Naw. Once they put the rule in, I decided it wasn't worth going overseas. I wasn't that desperate. I figured I'd go to college and play. If you're really as good as you think you are, then you should figure you can make the jump out of college, right?
LW: I'm not sure if you go on YouTube at all, but amongst all the videos of you dunking there are two pretty classic ones. The first is from late in an overtime loss to Oregon [from Nov. 29], where it's tied 71-71 near the end of regulation, and you run to the bench during a stoppage, put towels in your shorts, and well ... take care of some pressing business so you can comfortably continue the game.
BW: It was either that or leave the court. And I was trying to win that game, so I did what had to be done.
LW: That's dedication. The other video is from last year's NIT--
BW: The popcorn thing.
LW: Yeah. Where you're redshirting, and on the bench eating popcorn at the start of the DePaul game. It's one of the better sideline clips I've ever seen.
BW: I didn't think people were going to make such a big deal about it. I still eat popcorn before all the games now. I love popcorn -- and not out of the microwave, either. I like the taste of it when it's popped out of the machine, so I either go and get some, or have somebody get some for me, before every game.
LW: Three of the better freshmen in the college game right now -- Kentucky's Patrick Patterson, O.J., and yourself -- all grew up in Huntington, W.V., which isn't usually thought of as a hoops hotbed. Is there anything about the culture of the city that shaped your games?
BW: We're a different caliber of people, from Huntington -- just blue-collar people who go to work. Patrick displays that when he plays for Kentucky. You can tell he plays hard and goes to work, and same with O.J. It's how we were brought up. It's not like there are a lot of jobs or opportunities for people [in Huntington], so if you do have something, you have to work your tail off to keep it.
LW: You write "1023" on the backs of your Nikes, which is an ode to Huntington, right?
BW: 1023 Minton was my street address when I lived in Huntington. The house was in real bad shape when my family first moved in. We had to clean it up to make it a home. So I can be going through the worst slump ever, and I can look down at the 1023 on my shoes, and know it can't get any worse than when we first got there.
LW: Last one. What about your jersey number, 12? Is it another play off of that address, or something else?
BW: I just wear 12 because it's the first two numbers -- the most important numbers. The first two steps to any play are the most important. You've always gotta have your 1-2 right.