Bill Walker: Draft Casualty or Legend in the Making?

That Big 12 GuyContributor IJune 18, 2008

As a 17-year-old kid he evoked images of a young Vince Carter.  Teamed with O.J. Mayo and blessed with seemingly unparalleled athletic ability, Bill Walker was it.

Everyone around him told him he was a no-brainer top five NBA draft pick—it was a sure thing.

But much like life, nothing is guaranteed, and when David Stern announced the new age restrictions on entering the NBA Draft, it was all put on hold.  Sneaker legend Sonny Vaccaro called Bill Walker the first casualty of the new rules.

But Bill had a plan—go play for Kansas State and Bob Huggins and make the jump a year later.

But fate had other plans for Bill.  Just six games into his first year at Kansas State, he came down hard and tore his ACL.

It was a devastating blow to a kid so close to his dreams, but Walker remained resilient, insisting that this was just one setback, saying, "You've got to take some time away, but you've got to rehab.  That's what I've been doing.  I'm just going to wait until June to get back out there."

Then as April rolled around, fate had one more sucker punch in store for the talented Walker—his coach and friend Bob Huggins shocked many and left Kansas State after just one year to head to West Virginia.

Nobody was more angry or hurt by this than Walker.  He would have followed Huggins to hell and back.

Most people would be angry, alone rehabbing an injury in the middle of Kansas.  It was okay for Bill Walker to hate Bob Huggins, but he didn't—he was happy his coach got to go home and continued to work on moving forward

While Walker still had much to learn on the court, it seemed he had figured out how to let go off it.

The 2008 season for Kansas State was, for many, about Micheal Beasley, and Bill Walker was secondary.  Bill didn't mind.  He had dealt with being the "sidekick" to O.J. Mayo and had just one goal—to win.

For those who saw the same 17-year-old kid leaping out of the gym, 2008 was about the rebirth of Bill Walker.

There were special moments, from an outstanding performance en route to a monumental victory over the National Champion Kansas Jayhawks, to his complete rout over friend O.J. Mayo and USC in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

2008 was a good year for Bill Walker, on the court—16 points, six rebounds per game—and off.

As April rolled around again, it was time—time to fulfill his dream, time to help get his family out of Huntington, West Virginia and the poverty he grew up knowing, time to go the next level.

Bill blocked everybody out: his coaches, friends, and family.  He focused on getting ready to work out for NBA teams.  He dropped 20 pounds in an effort to be quicker and lighter and by early indications was making a very good case for himself.

Then just one day before the deadline to decide to stay in the draft or return to college, fate stepped in again.

Walker was working out for the Golden State Warriors when he again injured his knee, this time not as seriously, but still a red flag to many in the NBA.

Walker again had a decision to make—follow the lead of players like Dee Brown and Brandon Rush who had withdrawn their names due to injury in the past, or move forward.

Nobody but Bill will know what NBA teams told him and his representatives, but as the deadline came and went, Walker decided to keep his name in the draft—a move that confused many because it had been speculated 2009 would be Walker's year to finally be the star and improve his NBA stock.

But that's the problem—Bill has never cared about being the star or the attention that goes along with it.  He wants to be the best, and he wants to win.

Nobody knows if the end to this story will be like that of so many in the past, the mistakes like Lenny Cook (a high school player many said was better than LeBron) or Matt Walsh (former Florida star that played exactly one NBA game after leaving early).

Or maybe, just maybe, it's the beginning of a great story and a great career.

Nobody can know for sure, but there's one thing you can bank on: Bill Walker is ready—ready to deal with anything put in his way.  So far nothing has stopped him.

I would bank on Bill.