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Former CU Buffs star Jabari Walker picked by Chauncey Billups-led Portland in NBA Draft

Pac-12’s top rebounder selected 57th overall

BOULDER, CO, March 15, 2022: University ...
Jabari Walker was picked at No. 57 in the NBA Draft by Portland, which is coached by Buffs legend Chauncey Billups. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Jabari Walker took a chance in the belief his game was ready for the NBA. Thanks to some attention from a Colorado legend, that gamble paid off.

On Thursday, Walker became the 36th Buffaloes player to get selected in the NBA Draft, with the 6-foot-8 forward going to Portland in second round at No. 57 overall.

Walker became the seventh CU player selected in the 12 drafts conducted since Tad Boyle became the Buffs’ head coach, a list that includes Alec Burks (12th overall in 2011), Andre Roberson (26th in 2013), Derrick White (29th in 2017), Tyler Bey (36th in 2020), Spencer Dinwiddie (38th in 2014) and George King (59th in 2018).

Because Miami and Chicago both lost second-round picks due to tampering violations, Walker at No. 57 was the next-to-last pick in the draft, just like King at No. 59 in 2018. Portland is coached by CU legend Chauncey Billups, the highest-selected player in CU history at No. 3 in 1997.

After earning first team All-Pac-12 honors while leading the league in rebounding (9.4 per game), Walker opted to test his value in the NBA Draft process, at first doing so while retaining his college eligibility. Before the June 1 deadline to withdraw and return to school, however, Walker signed with an agent and opted to remain in the draft pool despite receiving lukewarm attention in the most reputable mock drafts.

The son of former NBA veteran Samaki Walker, Jabari Walker often was electric in a limited role off the bench as a freshman during the 2020-21 season, averaging 7.6 while shooting .523 (23-for-44) from 3-point range to earn a spot on the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team. Walker set a CU NCAA Tournament record with five 3-pointers in the Buffs’ first-round win against Georgetown in 2021, a mark that was matched by D’Shawn Schwartz in the same game.

Walker struggled to regain that shooting touch as he moved into a starting role in 2021-22, posting a .214 mark (9-for-42) from the arc over the first 15 games. Walker recovered, however, recording a .435 3-point percentage (27-for-62) over the final 18 games. Walker led the Pac-12 and ranked 10th in the nation with 17 double-doubles.

The Pac-12 received three first-round selections and six overall. Conference Player of the Year Bennedict Mathurin from Arizona led the way, getting selected sixth overall by the Indiana Pacers. Mathurin ended the regular season as the only Pac-12 player to rank in the league’s top 15 in scoring, made 3-pointers, 3-point percentage, overall field goal percentage, free throw percentage and rebounding.

Wildcats teammate Dalen Terry, whose draft prospects surged over the past few months, was taken 18th overall by the Chicago Bulls, while UCLA freshman Peyton Watson was selected by Oklahoma City with the final first round pick before getting traded to the Denver Nuggets.

Arizona’s Christian Koloko was the third selection of the second round (33rd overall) by Toronto, before USC’s Isaiah Mobley was reunited with his brother, 2021 No. 3 overall selection Evan Mobley, when Cleveland selected him at No. 49.

Two other players who crossed paths with the Buffs during the 2021-22 season also heard their names on Thursday. Patrick Baldwin Jr., a top prospect in the 2021 recruiting class who opted to play for his father at Milwaukee, struggled through an injury-marred season and was thoroughly outplayed by Walker down the stretch of a CU home win on Dec. 10, yet he nonetheless went in the first round (28th overall) to NBA champion Golden State. Tennessee freshman guard Kennedy Chandler, who torched the Buffs for 27 points in a Volunteers win at the Events Center on Dec. 4, was selected in the second round (38th overall) by San Antonio.

Colorado State’s David Roddy became the third Rams player to get selected in the first round, going to Memphis at No. 23.

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