Houston freshman Jarace Walker has decided to declare for the 2023 NBA Draft, the forward told reporters after Friday night’s 89-75 upset loss to No. 5 Miami in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.
Walker, 19, led Houston in scoring with 16 points on 4-of-16 (25%) shooting from the field in 36 minutes. In addition to recording 11 rebounds, five assists, one steal, and four blocks, the 6-foot-8 wing also drained two 3-pointers.
Referring to multiple college basketball betting sites, while No. 1 Houston has been officially eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, sportsbooks show No. 4 UConn, No. 2 Texas, and No. 3 Gonzaga with the best remaining odds to win the national championship.
Houston’s Jarace Walker told reporters that he plans to declare for the 2023 NBA Draft.
Walker is projected to be a lottery pick.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 25, 2023
Moreover, Walker will be a projected lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, per sources. Through 36 appearances with Houston, Walker averaged 11.2 points, 6.8 boards, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.3 blocks, and 27.6 minutes per game. Plus, he shot 46.5% from the field and 34.7% beyond the arc.
Walker ranked 19th in points (404) in the ACC, sixth in rebounds (245), fourth in blocks (46), 14th in field goals (158), 12th in 2-point field goals (123), eighth in player efficiency rating (22.1), second in defensive win shares (2.8), and 11th in offensive rating (114.5).
Additionally, the wing led the AAC in defensive box plus/minus (4.4) and defensive rating (87.1). In the NCAA, the forward finished sixth in defensive win shares. Walker won AAC Rookie of the Year and was selected to the AAC All-Freshman Team and All-AAC Second Team.
Houston freshman Jarace Walker declares for the 2023 NBA Draft, projected to become lottery pick
In the Cougars’ 83-36 win over Northern Colorado to open the 2022-23 season, Jarace Walker tallied eight points, 12 rebounds, and one block in 28 minutes as a starter. Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson was not concerned over his freshman forward shooting 3-of-14 (21.4%) from the floor and missing all four 3-point attempts.
“He came in here in his first game as a Cougar, and what did he do?” said Sampson. “Six offensive rebounds, six defensive rebounds. For Jarace Walker, I could care less about 3 for 14. You judge his night by how he bought in to Cougar basketball, and I thought he was awesome tonight.”
Furthermore, while at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, he was a consensus 5-star recruit for the Class of 2022. In his senior year, he averaged 16.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game. The forward ranked No. 12 in the nation and No. 4 overall in the state before signing with Houston, according to 247Sports.
UH forward Jarace Walker officially declares for the NBA Draft after 1 season with @UHCougarMBK.
“It’s not really what I’m focused on at the moment…I mean I really wish I could do another season with these guys…but I just feel like this is what’s best for me.” @KHOU pic.twitter.com/2ftLbWYIzK
— Daniel Gotera (@DTGoteraKHOU) March 25, 2023
Recruiting analyst Brandon Jenkins compared Walker to former Sacramento Kings forward Royce White. “Walker is a strong physical specimen with a cut-up frame and broad shoulders at the hybrid four-man spot,” said Jenkins in his scouting report. “He is a nice vertical athlete who can finish emphatically when given the chance and always looks to assert himself on the glass.
“When Walker steps on the floor, you can expect to get a contribution from him in a lot of ways… He will need to improve as a shot maker, but he is a versatile four in the making who has both the physical tools and emerging face-up skills that should only continue to blossom at the next level.” Instead of returning to Houston, Walker feels his time in the NBA is now.