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Done deal: Jabari Walker reportedly ‘all in’ for NBA draft

CU Buffs now tasked with replacing top three scorers

BOULDER, CO - Nov. 13, 2021: ...
Daily Camera file photo
BOULDER, CO – November 13, 2021: Jabari Walker during the Montana State game. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

The intriguing mix of young talent on the Colorado men’s basketball roster will not be buoyed by the dynamic skills of Jabari Walker.

On Monday morning, ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony released a tweet indicating Walker’s father, former NBA veteran Samaki Walker, said the Colorado sophomore is going “all in” for the NBA draft and “has no intentions on returning to school.”

While Walker’s loss is not a complete surprise — he declared his intentions to test his NBA draft prospects immediately after the season — it nonetheless makes official the departure of the Buffaloes’ leading scorer and rebounder.

A first team All-Pac-12 selection this past season, Walker averaged 11.5 points and 7.2 rebounds in 59 games during his two-season career at CU. Walker, though, filled vastly different roles during those two seasons.

Walker provided a huge spark in 26 games off the bench as a freshman in 2020-21, averaging 7.6 points while shooting a stellar .523 on 3-pointers. Walker was a Pac-12 All-Freshman Team selection, and that season culminated with Walker scoring 24 points with a 5-for-5 mark on 3-pointers in CU’s first-round win against Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament. Walker’s five 3-pointers tied a CU NCAA Tournament record shared with D’Shawn Schwartz, who also hit five in the rout of Georgetown.

Tasked with assuming a much more central role with the Buffs as a sophomore, Walker struggled with his long-range touch early, shooting just .214 (9-for-42) on 3-pointers through the season’s first 15 games. He recovered to shoot .435 on 3-pointers the rest of the way, ultimately averaging 14.6 points and a Pac-12-best 9.4 rebounds per game.

Walker led the Pac-12 with 17 double-doubles, and he matched that career-high 24 points against Georgetown twice this past season during wins at Oregon and Oregon State. In two seasons at CU, he shot .479 overall, .399 on 3-pointers, and .783 at the free throw line.

Walker’s draft potential remains unclear. While some mock drafts project the 6-foot-9 Walker as a mid-second round pick, other projections leave Walker off the board altogether. Although the official list of participants in the NBA draft combine has not yet been released, Walker is expected to be part of the player pool when the combine begins in two weeks in Chicago.

CU head coach Tad Boyle told BuffZone last week that Walker remains in classes at CU, and he has enrolled for the fall semester in case he experiences a change of heart. Walker has until June 1 to withdraw from the draft pool and maintain his eligibility.

However, the statement from Walker’s father seemingly closes the door on Walker’s CU career. With the graduation of Evan Battey coupled with Keeshawn Barthelemy’s decision to transfer to Oregon, the Buffs will be tasked with replacing their top three scorers, their top two rebounders, and top three 3-point shooters.

Last month, the Buffs added guard Ethan Wright, a transfer from Princeton, and Bobi Klintman, an incoming freshman forward. It remains unclear if Boyle will continue scouring the transfer portal for further spring reinforcements, but with Wright projected as the only senior next season, holding Walker’s spot for 2023 could be an option as well.