Published February 08. 2012 4:00AM
Boston - Twenty-five games into his NBA rookie season, Kemba Walker already has shed his training wheels.
He's had no choice.
The injury depleted Charlotte Bobcats are counting on the former UConn star to run the team all while adjusting to a new and extremely demanding professional basketball life.
"I thought I knew a lot of things coming out of college with the year that I had," Walker said. "It's been a humbling experience. I just have to sit back and adjust and be ready to learn again. It's like I'm a freshman (in college) all over again."
Walker continued his journey Tuesday in Boston, facing the Celtics at TD Garden. He had 16 points, seven rebounds and two assists in a 94-84 loss for the struggling Bobcats (3-22).
After having perhaps the best single season in UConn history while leading the Huskies on magical run to the program's third national championship, Walker is learning to deal with disappointment.
Walker, the ninth overall pick in the NBA Draft, is quick to point out that last season wasn't all sunshine.
"We won 11 straight games at the end of the season," Walker said. "We lost four of our last five regular season games. We were 9-9 in the Big East. We didn't do well either. Everybody just remembers that last stretch.
"I have a great team. We're keeping positive and keeping our heads up. You can't ask for more."
Charlotte coach Paul Silas is pleased with Walker's progress and work ethic. The coaching staff is working with Walker on his point guard skills and shooting (he's sinking only 36.6 percent).
His duties are different than UConn days.
"He's getting there," Silas said. "He's learning how to run a ball club now. Before he was just going off on his own and looking for himself. Now he's looking for everybody else first and when we need a hoop, he's going at it.
"Defensively, he's got to get up in the guy that he's guarding and try to get over screens, but that all takes time. I like the fact that he's gaining experience. … I think he has all-star potential in the future."
After coming off the bench the first 12 games, Walker has started the last 13. Heading into Tuesday's game, he was averaging 12.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He had only the third triple-double in Bobcats history, finishing with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists against Washington Jan. 28.
But that triple-double meant little to Walker because the Bobcats lost.
Tuesday night Walker enjoyed another highlight in his short professional career, playing against fellow former Husky Ray Allen. In recent years, they've had many conversations at Gampel Pavilion during the summer months.
"It's an amazing feeling playing against one of all-time greatest players to come out of UConn, which I came from also," Walker said. "He's like a big brother to me, so to be on the same court as him is pretty amazing."
Walker, who is still flashing his trademark smile on the court, and Allen traded baskets in the second half. The rookie unsuccessfully tried to block the wily veteran's fast-break layup attempt. Allen had the upper hand, earning the win and scoring 17 points.
Allen has seen his share of players past through the professional ranks. He believes Walker has a bright future.
"I know that he has a sense of pride about him coming from UConn," Allen said. "He knows he has to uphold that standard. … I know he's going to continue to work hard.
"When he got drafted people were talking about his size. But we've seen small players do great things in this league. It's all the matter of the measure of his heart. We've all seen that Kemba has a big heart, so that pretty much will carry him for a lot of his career."