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Kemba talks about his NBA rookie season, UConn

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: theday.com

Published February 08. 2012 10:34AM   Updated February 08. 2012 10:54AM

After visiting with Kemba Walker and Ray Allen last night in Boston, it's easy to reach the following conclusion:

UConn is fortunate to have both players representing the men's basketball program and school.

They're both first-class guys.

In his 16th season, Allen is winding down his impressive NBA career in Boston. Walker is in his rookie season playing for Charlotte.

Allen is happy to have another former Husky in the NBA.

"I'm sure he wants to make people in Connecticut proud about he's able to accomplish in the league," Allen said.

Here's some stuff that couldn't be squeezed into my story today about Walker's rookie journey:

-- Walker loves the challenge of playing against the top point guards in the NBA. He's already faced Phoenix's Steve Nash. He took on Boston's Rajon Rondo last night.

"You've just got to go out there and play basketball and just play hard and try to win," Walker said.

Walker had 16 points, a team-high seven rebounds, two assists and four turnovers in 39 minutes. Rondo finished with 10 points and 14 assists in 33 minutes.

Boston won, 94-84.

-- Walker has impressed the Bobcats with his attitude and work ethic. Charlotte coach Paul Silas said Walker has all-star potential in the future.

"He works hard," Silas said. "Every day he's one of the first ones in (the gym) and one of the last ones to leave. This summer he's really going to have to work even harder. We're going to work with his shot a little bit. When he comes back, he has a chance to be good."

Walker is shooting just 36.7 percent from the field.

-- With a 3-22 record, Charlotte is the worst team in the NBA.

Walker gave an interesting answer when asked if he's ever played on a team with a bad record. He brought up his sophomore season when UConn went 18-16 and failed to make the NCAA tournament.

"We were terrible," Walker said.

The following season, UConn won the national championship.

-- Walker has not lost his joy for the game despite dealing with the NBA grind for the first time.

"It's tough. A lot of basketball games, a lot of traveling. Your body is tired. You're tired mentally and physically. But the best players keep that up."

-- The subject of this year's struggling Huskies also came up. Walker caught some of UConn's embarrassing loss at Louisville on Monday.

"Let's not talk about that," Walker said. "That was bad."

So what's missing?

"Honestly, I don't know. They're good. … I know they'll get it right. They'll be fine."

-- Walker called UConn associate head coach George Blaney a great coach. Blaney is filling in for coach Jim Calhoun who'll miss his third straight game Saturday while on an indefinite medical leave of absence.

Any turnaround has to come from the players, Walker said.

"It's not him," Walker said of Blaney. "It's up to the players. They're the ones on the court and the ones that have to play."

-- Allen spent some time talking about Walker prior to Tuesday's game. He works out with the Huskies at Gampel Pavilion during the summer months.

He believes Walker benefitted from playing behind A.J. Price in his first season at UConn.

"Having A.J. kind of gave him a great start, because A.J. was a scorer and he had a tutelage under him," Allen said. "He was able to surpass A.J.'s legacy at UConn. A.J. gave him somebody to look up, too, and be better than.

"The beautiful thing about it was he learned from him and got better. He was able to carry his team to a national championship."

-- Allen says the hardest thing for an NBA rookie to learn is playing against different defensive sets.

"There's a defensive set every game you have to focus on…," Allen said. "I was getting beat every which way. … It was so nerve-racking."

"… I'm sure that he's dealing with the same thing with point guards and pick-and-rolls. Regardless if you're a big name in this league or not, somebody can come off a pick-and-roll and if you don't know how to guard it, you're going get beat."

-- For more on Walker's rookie season, check out my story:

http://www.theday.com/article/20120208/SPORT05/302089917/1044

-- In other news, UConn released an update on Calhoun's lower back condition. He will meet with specialists over the next couple of days to determine a treatment plan.

"I'm feeling better, but as of now, I wouldn't be able to coach," Calhoun said in the statement. "I'm trying to get the best assessment in order to find the best solution."

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