Jabari Walker is, by any definition, a late bloomer. And given Walker’s age and abrupt improvement over the past year, he alone might boast the most untapped potential in a Colorado 2020 recruiting class full of players with tantalizing ceilings.
At the beginning of this past basketball season, Walker figured a year at a prep school was, most likely, his next destination. But a growth spurt combined with the opportunity that opened up on the Buffaloes’ roster over the past month changed those plans. Now the 6-foot-8 Walker is one of the new additions to the CU frontcourt — and a player who not only could help the Buffs in the 2020-21 season, but one head coach Tad Boyle firmly believes is a key component of the future of the program.
The son of former 10-year NBA veteran Samaki Walker, Jabari Walker says he grew three inches over the past year. And at just 17-years old, that growth spurt may not be over.
“I’m still growing as we speak,” Walker said hours after signing his letter of intent on Wednesday to officially join the Buffs. “I went from 6-5 last year and now I’m 6-8. I feel myself getting stronger. I don’t think I’m done growing. I was considering doing another year of prep school just to get more looks, improve my body and get more comfortable with my game. I was out my whole sophomore year with injuries, so a lot played into that decision of going prep. But then I realized that I was ready for college. Every coach was telling me I’m ready.”
Walker, along with new signee Jeriah Horne, a graduate transfer from Tulsa, could be the players most critical to replacing Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Tyler Bey, who opted to forgo his senior season to enter the NBA draft. In Walker’s case, however, his addition alongside German small fandorward Tristan da Silva, as well as previous 2020 in-state signees Luke O’Brien and Dominique Clifford, gives CU an impressive array of true freshmen one year after not having a single freshman on the active roster.
“He’s really improved the past year,” CU associate head coach Mike Rohn said. “He grew a little over the past year, and he’s a great kid with great upside. He definitely can help us as a freshman with Tyler leaving. He can be in the rotation and has a good basketball IQ. He can really be a good piece for us with Tyler not coming back.”
Like CU’s other spring signees, Walker has yet to set foot on CU’s campus, which is closed with all off-campus recruiting endeavors shelved in the national lockdown due the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19. With the NCAA traveling moratorium extended through May 31, it is looking less likely Walker and his new teammates will reconvene at CU in early June, which would follow the typical basketball offseason calendar.
Instead, Walker is training at home to hit the ground running whenever he arrives on campus.
“Knowing that we can compete right away for the NCAA Tournament, top 20 team like last year and we’ve added more pieces,” Walker said. “Losing Tyler Bey but adding more pieces. We have a good freshman class coming in. If we can get it together right away, then the next four years should be pretty interesting. I’m excited about that.
“We’ve done a good job of contacting each other just on the phone so far. I think it’s important, and we’ll have a strong relationship by the time we get to Colorado. The most I can do right now is just focus on myself right now, just focusing on what I have to. Whenever I get to be on campus I want to be ready. So that’s just my focus right now. Getting my mindset ready, preparing as well as I can, and I will be ready by the time I get to step on campus.”