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Tad Boyle: ‘Nothing has changed’ regarding status of Jabari Walker

CU’s head coach believes door still ajar for possible Boulder return

BOULDER,CO, Feb. 3, 2022: University of ...
Colorado forward Jabari Walker posted double-doubles in each of the Buffaloes’ games against Oregon during the regular season. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

To paraphrase a criminally overused movie phrase, Tad Boyle believes there’s still a chance.

In this case, the chance he refers to is Jabari Walker’s possible return to Boulder.

Despite the statements made last week to ESPN by Walker’s father, former NBA veteran Samaki Walker, saying CU’s sophomore first team All-Pac-12 Conference selection essentially was done with college basketball and was ready to embrace whatever comes next professionally in his basketball career.

It might be overstating the situation to say “not so fast,” but Boyle believes the door isn’t quite shut on a return to Boulder for Walker.

As BuffZone reported last week, Walker’s invitation to next week’s NBA draft combine became official on Tuesday, as the 6-foot-9 forward was one of 76 players invited to attend the pre-draft camp in Chicago. When Samaki Walker’s comments were reported by ESPN last week, Boyle said he had conversed with Jabari Walker a night earlier, and the Buffaloes standout did not offer any of the definitive statements soon attributed to his father.

As of early this week, Boyle said Walker still has not hired an agent. Whatever occurs next will be largely dependent on how Walker — who still is not universally considered a certain draft selection — fares at the combine.

Walker, the Buffs’ leading scorer and the Pac-12’s leading rebounder last season, has until June 1 to withdraw from the draft pool and retain his eligibility next season at CU.

“Jabari and I touched base, and I think he and I are on the same page in terms of where he is,” Boyle said. “He’s going to go to the NBA combine and then he’ll come back and have feedback, and he’ll have a decision to make by June first. He’s not signed with agent. He’s keeping all his options open.

“Certainly he wants to go there and play well and show out. And I think if he does that, he’ll have opportunities. But the bottom line is he isn’t going to know what his draft stock is until draft night.”

Walker is one of seven Pac-12 players who received an invitation to the combine. That list includes the Arizona trio of conference player of the year Bennedict Mathurin, big man Christian Koloko, and versatile guard Dalen Terry; UCLA star Johnny Juzang and Bruins freshman Peyton Watson; and Stanford freshman Harrison Ingram.

Walker and the Buffs also got a look at two other young players in the combine talent pool in Tennessee freshman guard Kennedy Chandler (also a teammate of Walker’s at the U19 national team tryout camp last summer) and Milwaukee’s Patrick Baldwin Jr., who was decisively outplayed by Walker down the stretch of a CU win in Boulder on Dec. 10.

“Jabari and his family want NBA teams to know he’s serious about being a professional athlete,” Boyle said. “They don’t want to feel like they have one foot in and one foot out. But the NBA knows the situation. They know every one of these kids that are coming out early, and they’ve got decisions to make. That’s just the way it is. They have a decision to make by June 1, and that’s their decision. Nothing has changed.”