San Diego State should be ready for this.
The Aztecs have played Jimmer Fredette and BYU three times this season. Twice, the Cougars got the best of them because Fredette either couldn’t be stopped (43 points) or found his teammates (25 points, nine assists. Third time around, Fredette scored 30, but SDSU figured out how to limit everyone else for a win.
They should be ready for Kemba Walker and Connecticut. But preparing for Kemba and stopping Kemba are two different things.
This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
After all, who has stopped Walker’s Huskies lately? They’ve won seven straight, including that remarkable Big East tournament run where they won five games in five days. In that span, Walker’s averaging nearly 26 points a game. He’s a streakier shooter than Fredette, but is much, much quicker and infinitely harder to stop off the dribble.
But where his game used to only be speed, it’s developed into something more this year. From Mike Anthony of the Hartford Courant:
There might not be a UConn player who has had a greater total package of gifts than Walker, whose belief is leading this team as much as his skill. He was named one of four finalists for the Naismith national player of the year award Sunday, joining Jared Sullinger of Ohio State, Nolan Smith of Duke and Jimmer Fredette of BYU. When Saturday’s game was in doubt, as it was several times, Walker urged teammates to focus on defense, demanded freshmen pay attention to detail, and took over. Afterward, coach Jim Calhoun got into talking about players who need only one name.
Ray, Rip, Caron, Emeka, Ben. And Kemba. He has played on and off the ball, with Shabazz Napier offering important direction, and been at the heart of everything this team has accomplished.
“He’s starting to edge up (on the list of UConn greats) on what his impact is on his teammates,” Calhoun said. “During the timeout when (the Bearcats) finally caught us and went ahead, he’s really going after the young kids. I’d be a fool not to allow the guy they respect so much to really get on them about winning this basketball game. … And all of the sudden we just pull away. When you’ve won five, six, seven games and played really good teams, that happens.”
That’s high praise given the talent that’s run through Storrs the last 20 years. But Walker’s earned that praise by being a leader, by being clutch and being flat-out unstoppable at times.
Jimmer elevated his hoops status to one name after playing the Aztecs. Kemba’s already there. Does that bode ill for the Aztecs?
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.