Kemba’s Been Snubbed
Injustice for the National Champ?
by Quinn Peterson / @QwinFNP
Kemba Walker‘s heroics have been on full display all season long, especially the past four weeks, clear for the entire country to see. But as I watched the National Championship on Monday, a DMX-ish voice screamed between my ears: What’s. Really. Good?!
Kemba got snubbed this year, straight up. And it’s so obvious that if not careful, one could be duped into thinking otherwise. As awesome a year as Kemba had, and you’re telling me he wasn’t the best player in the country — or the conference? In the words of Ed Lover, c’mon son!
Now, to be sure, Jimmer Fredette had an outstanding season. I’m not taking anything away from him, but far too much was taken from Walker. No one — read no one — was consistently as good, as clutch, as heroic as Kemba from November to April, beginning to end. Not when it mattered most.
A potential POY should also have a vast impact on his team, right? Make their teammates better? Well, it was Kemba, Charles Okwandu and six underclassmen playing significant minutes (with Alex Oriachi as the only five-star recruit). That’s more than any other (good) team in the country. There’s no question that Kemba’s confidence and swagger rubbed off on his younger running mates. They took his cue and followed his lead. He put them on his back. He was the best leader in the country — hands down.
On the biggest stages, he stepped up every single time. Eleven 30-point games is a nice stat in itself, but more telling are his five game-deciding shots that came with less than a minute left. Baskets under two minutes are even more numerous. Even in games where he struggled from the field, he never hesitated to take the pressure off of his teammates and take the big shot himself.
Jimmer was great, but who it came against and under what circumstances means something. BYU played eight Tournament-bound teams during the course of the regular season and conference tournament. Three-fourths of UConn’s schedule came against Tournament-bound teams. Obviously, they play in the Big East, but that’s the point: It’s the Big East! Save that overrated talk for Charles Barkely. The Jimmer had some great numbers and outings, but they were empty compared to Kemba.
Not sold? How about this: UConn started the season unranked and picked to finish 10th in the Big East (granted, they did only finish ninth). And Walker wasn’t on any pre-season All-American list. Seldom do we see one player grow so much from one year to the next in every aspect of his game, including the intangibles. In his first two years he was, many times, out of control with little consistency on his jumper. Here in ’10-11, he was always calm, always poised, dropping jumpers and floaters at 43 percent clip.
He shocked the world and won the Maui, then came back and did it twice more in far more significant situations. In Hawaii, many swore it was just a passing phase, that he would come back to life once he touched back down in the continental US — negative.
Five games in five days (and a record 130 points) to win the Big East tourney. No way he could keep it up through the Tournament. Nope, did that, too.
While it could sometimes be misleading to associate a team’s success directly with one player, in this case, it’s justified, because quite simply, it’s true. Every UConn win was a Kemba win. He didn’t just score, he filled up the stat sheet: 23.5 points per, 5.4 boards (at 6-1! He had 9 in the title game, by the way) and 4.5 assists, all while logging nearly 38 minutes a night. Opportunities created for his teammates simply by being on the floor are immeasurable.
Yet as clear as his greatness has been, the slights have been equally as vivid.
If POY was up for debate then Big East POY had to be a shoo-in, right? Think again. Ben Hansbrough gets it. Based on their regular seasons, this could be somewhat warranted. But I’d argue (strongly) that the Big East and NCAA Tournaments — and UConn and Notre Dame’s respective finishes — showed us who the best player in the Big East really was: the Huskies’ Bronx Bomber.
And to truly illuminate the injustices is this: He wasn’t a unanimous All-Big East selection. Now that should leave you more appalled than Kanye. Ridiculous.
All this has caused the usually suppressed conspiracy theorist within me to emerge, because, check this, Calhoun has been snubbed like crazy, too. Leading a team that was, again, unranked to start the season, to a national championship, and he’s not the coach of the year? OK. who does he lose out to? Mike Brey, Notre Dame. Wow.
Politics and BS has to be at play here. Some kind of backlash for this NCAA allegation business Calhoun has been under scrutiny for.
To try to make due, the powers that be slid Walker the Bob Cousy award, which goes to the best point guard in the nation. Kemba didn’t even run the point this year, to be honest, not when he was at his best. He played off the ball and freshman Shabazz Napier handled PG duties.
Forget about that for a second. Jimmer was nominated for this award, too. So Kemba wins the award for best point guard in the nation over the guy who beats him out for Player of the Year? Something just doesn’t add up.
How many game-winning step-backs does a guy have to make?
Cutting the nets down, then, was his way of getting the last word, his final note before dropping the mic and walking off the stage, audience speechless as to what they just witnessed.
Oh, and did I mention he’s set to graduate May 8, in three years! He may have gotten the shaft on the awards, but we know who the baddest mother (…shut your mouth) really was.