Jarace Walker Levels Up To The Player We Expected

Welcome to the big time, Jarace Walker.

After last season’s disappointing end to an incredible season, I just couldn’t let it go. I had to see what was coming up this year for UH, so I watched every video I could get my hands on. I got a good sneak peek at Jarace Walker and what he could do. He was different from many of the elite players he was surrounded by because he did everything. Of course, he could score, but he hit the boards, passed the ball, blocked shots, defended, and made winning plays. Jarace wasn’t just a great player; he was the perfect fit for UH’s style of play.

Jarace Walker came to UH as a highly decorated prep star. He was a top 10 player nationally, a McDonald’s All-American, and a 2nd Team Naismith National High School All-American. He was one of the highest-rated recruits UH has ever landed. Expectations for him were through the roof.

Saturday, those expectations were met. I saw the same player I watched over the spring and summer, and finally, the college basketball world got a good look at what Jarace Walker can be. On the road against the #2 Virginia Cavaliers, UH had to be better than they were a week ago in the loss to Alabama. 

Surprisingly, every starter answered the call, and Jarace had the best game of his short career. All five starters scored in double figures, with Jarace leading the way with 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists, a blocked shot, and a steal.

The numbers don’t mean much to me, but the way he played stood out. This is the first game where he looked free and let his athleticism control his actions. He played without thinking and without hesitation. This was the guy I saw at IMG Academy.

It doesn’t matter who you are; adjusting to the college game takes time. In some games this year, Jarace has looked unsure of exactly where he needs to be and looked like he was trying to avoid making mistakes. In short, he did not understand his role. On Saturday, it looked like he just hooped. He moved better off the ball and played with more intent. He took shots in the flow of the game, and he was more aggressive at both ends of the floor.

This play showed me Jarace was going to have a day:

It didn’t turn into a steal and didn’t have a material impact on the game, but this is a player playing the game at full speed. A player that’s fully bought into the culture. When you aren’t thinking, your training and talent take over. Your decisions are quicker, you move quicker, and you allow yourself to let the game come to you. That is exactly how he played against Virginia.

I love watching players develop in Sampson’s system, and Jarace Walker could be the most interesting case study of all. December Jarace is already better than November Jarace. There will be ups and downs, but that is part of the process. Part of being a freshman. Kelvin has talked about young guys making freshmen mistakes and expecting them to be inconsistent. That’s what freshmen do. All freshmen will have bad nights and deal with failure for the first time. Are they ready for it? And are they being coached correctly so they can grow from it?

Jarace has already had some great nights and some poor nights. Because of that, you can see the growth, as in the Virginia game. As good as Jarace was on Saturday, he can and will be better in time. What we have seen so far is just scratching the surface. Jarace will start taking over conference games and become a national name.

And we were all there from the beginning.

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