The Charlotte Hornets, at 36-44 and out of the playoff race, are on the cusp of ending a disappointing season, but for Kemba Walker (185-PG-90, college: Connecticut), the team's all-star point guard, times have never been better.
In addition to being named an NBA all-star for the first time in his five-year career, Walker also emerged this season as one of the league's top 3-point shooters. He needs just four more (with two games left) to break Charlotte's single-season record of 243.
The 26-year-old New York native recently took questions from a small group of fans at 7th Street Public Market, an event hosted by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. Some of his comments are printed below, edited for brevity and clarity.
Being inside the all-star locker room
It was definitely a very surreal moment. You're among the best players in the NBA, especially the older guys like LeBron (James) and Kevin Durant, Melo (Carmelo Anthony). I don't know if anyone knows it, but Melo, he's my favorite player since I've been in junior high school. For me to be around him for those couple days, that was like the best thing ever. I got a chance to really speak to him a lot. Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry - everybody was just there. I would have never thought in a million years that I would be an all-star in this league.
His five years in Charlotte
It's been great. I've had a chance to see how things get better each and every year. My rookie year, we won seven games - it was bad - and the next year after that wasn't so great, either. From that point on, we just continued to get better. Just being able to get out into the community and see the same faces all the time for years, you know, it's really cool. I love being involved with the fans, of course. I love the community. A lot of these people, they've seen me grow, so it's been special to me. His reputation in college for stepping up in March and that game-winning shot in 2011 that sent UConn to the Big East semifinals over Pittsburgh
That's kind of what I'm known for. That was actually one of my motivations coming into the NBA. Everybody was just, 'Hey, Kemba, I remember that step-back against Pittsburgh in the Big East Tournament.' That's great, but that was college. I wanted to make a name for myself in the NBA as well.
His development as a 3-point shooter
I shot about 30 percent from the 3-point line my whole basketball career. But when I got here, that's all they kept brining up to me, after every year - they kept telling me, 'You've got to get your 3-point percentage up; you've got to get it up.' We got a shooting coach last year. I worked with him last summer, and man, it was tough. This guy came in and he had me shoot in front of him. He recorded me, and then we watched it. He said, 'You need to bring the ball up to the right. You need to get up on your toes more.' We did that for the whole summer. It was so hard. I didn't even want to do it. I'd been shooting this way for 24 years, and this guy just comes in and tells me to switch it up. I put in so much work, and I stuck with it.
His development as a team leader and being named co-captain
I've always considered myself a leader, but it's always been by example, for the most part. I'm not a big talkative guy, so I really had to work on my vocal leadership. I just try my best to talk to my teammates as much as I can. If guys are struggling, I want to be the one to, you know, give them all a lift. I try my best to keep my teammates positive. Those guys are great. They are the ones that make things easy for me, because they allow me to be who I am. They allow me to lead them. I'm 26-years-old, and a lot of those guys are much older than me, have been playing basketball in the NBA a lot longer than me as well, so they don't have to listen to me. I'm just a small, 5-11' guy.
His height. (listed as 6'1')
I'm going to change that next year. I'm going to have to say 5-11 (laughter)
Favorite team to play against
I'd have to say the Knicks, especially at The Garden. I'm from New York, so it's always fun to play against the home team. Playing at MSG (Madison Square Garden), it's just really special. I've had some special moments in my career in that place, so it's always cool to go back home and play in front of my friends and some family members.
You're putting me in a tough position right there. Nobody record this, please. Honestly, I think Marvin Williams. He's by far one of the best teammates I've ever been around. He's so competitive. He's a leader. He leads by example. He plays extremely hard each and every night. He's one of the older guys on that team, and the way he works each and every day - it's like second to none. Marv would have a bad game - didn't shoot the ball well on a particular night - and after the game, he and his dad would go upstairs to the (practice) gym and he'll shoot 500 jumpers until he makes 500 shots. He's pretty unbelievable.
Before I played basketball, I was a dancer. I danced at The Apollo (Theater in Harlem). I was maybe 8 or nine then. Yeah, that's what I did before I actually got serious into basketball. My (current) dance moves, they're shaky. I've got to get back in front of the mirror and practice.
Free agents who might improve the team and him
I think one of the bigger free agents this year is probably Blake Griffin. I think Blake would be a great fit for us. I mean, don't get y'all's hopes up. (laughter) It sounds good.
Talent vs determination
We actually talk about that in the locker room, how people justthey just see us play on TV. They don't really know the work that we put into our games. Hard work definitely beats talent every single day. I've always had to work a lot harder than the average player, because I'm small. I had to learn how to create space on my jump shots. I had to learn how to make jump shots consistently. Growing up, I wasn't always the best player on the team. I had to work toward that. It's all about mindset and how good you really want to be at whatever you do - whether it's basketball or you want to be a doctor or scientist, or whatever. It's about how much work ethic you have to be the best.
Advice from the legends
MJ (Michael Jordan), the one thing he always told me was to just be myself. My rookie year, I was 21 years old, and I was around these guys and I didn't want to step on anybody's toes and try to do too much. So I was kind of passive. MJ, he pulled me aside one day and he just saidhe told me just to be myself. He said, 'We drafted you for a reason.' So I thought that was great advice - to never be passive and always be aggressive and always be who I am. And Patrick Ewinghe's been a great role model for me. There have been times when I've been struggling throughout a game, early in the game, struggling, not making any shots. He's always the guy who comes up to me and says, 'It's a long game.' He always tells me not to get so down on myself, don't get so mad that the shots don't come, that at some point I'm going to make some shots.
Ballin' in the Bronx
I was actually one of those kids that just played. We had a bunch of different courts around in my neighborhood. It's one behind my building; it's one down the hill from my building, and it's another one in back of the projects. We always just went around and just played. It's just kind of what we did. I can't say that anyone really pushed me to play. I think I just played because it was around me all the time. It kept me out of trouble. As I got older, I realized that I could get a scholarship from it to go to college for free and my parents didn't have to pay. It's helped me to become a great person. It's helped me to become a role model for kids, which I never though would happen for me.
First thoughts of playing in the NBA
Probably my senior year in high school, when I was named to the McDonald's All-American Team. I don't know how, but I came across this stat that said kids in the McDonald's game had the highest change of reaching the NBA. Then I saw these mock drafts with my name on it, and I was like, 'Wow!' So I really pushed myself to become the best player I could be, and it worked out for me. Life after basketball
I try my best to think about it all the time, but it's just so hard for me because I just don't know yet. I know I don't want to be a coach. I don't have the patience for that. I've been thinking maybe player development - just something to help the young guys out, help those guys become better players.
College players he'd like the Hornets to draft
I don't know who would be available. Let me think of someone who might be there (when the Hornets get to select). There's a few guys. That kid in Kentucky - Bam (Edrice Adebayo). I like him. I like the way he plays; he's big. I think Zach Collins from Gonzaga. He's pretty good.
Walter Hodge selected the top Virgin Islander playing abroad in last week's games - 5 days ago
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Here is the weekly review of the top performing U.S. Virgin Islands players, who play currently abroad. This week's number one is an international point guard Walter Hodge (183-86). He led ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket to a victory over the closely-ranked JDA Dijon in the French ProA in Saturday night's game.
Here is the weekly review of the top performing U.S. Virgin Islands players, who play currently abroad.
#1. This week's number one is an international point guard Walter Hodge (183-86, college: Florida, currently plays in France). He led ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket to a 1-point victory over the closely-ranked JDA Dijon (10-18) 74-73 in the French ProA in Saturday night's game.
Hodge was MVP of the game. He recorded 19 points and added 4 passes in 24 minutes on the court.
ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket (14-14) is placed ninth in the ProA.
It's Hodge's first season with the team.
Hodge has relatively good stats this year: 13.0ppg, 1.8rpg, 5.7apg, 2FGP: 55.8%(82-147), 3FGP: 41.7% and FT: 79.5% in 28 games he played so far.
He has a dual citizenship: U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rican.
Hodge is currently a member of the U.S. Virgin Islands senior national team.
#2. Second place goes to an international forward Ivan Aska (201-90, college: Murray St., currently plays in Greece). He led PAOK to an easy victory against the closely-ranked Lavrio (11-15) 82-65 in the Greek A1 last Wednesday.
Aska recorded 13 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists.
PAOK Thessaloniki (14-12) is placed fifth in the A1.
This season Aska has relatively solid stats: 10.4ppg, 5.0rpg, 2FGP: 51.2% and FT: 71.4%.
He is another player who holds two passports: U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rican.
Aska is in the roster of the U.S. Virgin Islands senior national team.
#3. The U.S. Virgin Islands player who performed third best last week abroad was an international center Frank Elegar (208-86, college: Drexel, currently plays in VTB United League). He led his Russian team Enisey to a victory against the tenth-ranked Avtodor (7-16) 97-92 in the VTB United League on Sunday night.
Elegar had a double-double by scoring 12 points and getting 11 rebounds. He also added 3 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals (was perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line) in 31 minutes.
Enisey Krasnoyarsk (13-10) is placed sixth in group A.
It was his team's fifth consecutive victory in a row.
They will play only one more game in the VTB United League Regular Season. And that game will be critical.
Elegar has reliable stats this year: 13.8ppg, 9.4rpg, 1.5apg, 1.2spg, 2FGP: 67.2%(88-131) and FT: 72.3% in 20 games.
He has both U.S. Virgin Islands and Guyanese nationalities.
Elegar is also a member of the U.S. Virgin Islands senior national team.
#4. Center Craig Williams (206-89, college: TCU, currently plays in Japan) could not help Orange Vikings (27-27) in their last game on Sunday. Despite his very good performance the fourth-placed Orange Vikings (27-27) were edged 75-73 on the road by the second-ranked Dragonflies in the West group.
Williams was the top scorer with 30 points. He also added 6 rebounds and made 2 blocks.
Williams' stats this season are: 13.4ppg, 8.3rpg and 1.6apg.
He is also U.S. Virgin Islands national team player.
One more player who has never been selected to any of national teams, but has U.S. Virgin Islands passport:
#1.Marcus Georges-Hunt (196-F-94, agency: Pensack Sports, college: Georgia Tech, currently plays in NBA) managed to help Orlando Magic in a victory against the Detroit Pistons (36-45) 113-109 in the NBA last Wednesday.
Georges-Hunt scored only 4 points in 10 minutes.
The Orlando Magic has 29-53 record this season.
The Regular Season already ended in the NBA.
This year Georges-Hunt averages: 2.8ppg and 1.8rpg in five games he played so far.
He has a dual citizenship: U.S. Virgin Islands and American.
Other top U.S. Virgin Islands players, who play abroad:
SEATTLE - Game matchups for the 2017 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam were announced Tuesday by tournament directors. Eight men's and eight women's Division-I college basketball teams will compete in the 18th annual Paradise Jam held Nov. 17-25, 2017 at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The men's tournament, held Friday, Nov. 17 through Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, features Colorado, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Liberty, Mercer, Quinnipiac, and Wake Forest. Te... [read more]
SEATTLE - Game matchups for the 2017 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam were announced Tuesday by tournament directors. Eight men's and eight women's Division-I college basketball teams will compete in the 18th annual Paradise Jam held Nov. 17-25, 2017 at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
The men's tournament, held Friday, Nov. 17 through Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, features Colorado, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Liberty, Mercer, Quinnipiac, and Wake Forest. Teams will compete in a bracket-style tournament over the four-day event.
Mercer will tip off against Liberty in the opening game of the 2017 men's Paradise Jam. Drexel and Houston face each other in the second game of the afternoon session, before Quinnipiac and Colorado compete in the first game of the evening session. Drake and Wake Forest will conclude opening-day action in the final matchup of the day.
Losing teams will compete in their second game the following day, Saturday, Nov. 18. Winning teams will have a one-day respite, before facing off in the semifinals, Sunday, Nov. 19. All teams will return to the UVI Sports and Fitness Center, Monday for the championship round. The seventh-place game will open the final day of competition, followed by the fourth-place game, third-place game, and championship game to crown the 2017 men's Paradise Jam champion.
The women's tournaments will take place Thursday, Nov. 23 through Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. The tournament fields includes Butler, Drexel, George Washington, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The women's tournaments feature two four-team divisions competing in round-robin play for separate tournament championships.
Butler, West Virginia, Drexel, and Virginia Tech will compete in the Paradise Jam Island Division. Vanderbilt, George Washington, Wisconsin, and Syracuse will compete in the Paradise Jam Reef Division.
The opening day of the Island Division will feature Butler vs. West Virginia and Drexel vs. Virginia Tech. Second-round matchups include West Virginia vs. Drexel and Virginia Tech vs. Butler on Nov. 24. In the final day of the Island Division on Nov. 25, the Bulldogs will face the Drexel Dragons and West Virginia will face the VT Hokies.
Vanderbilt and George Washington will tip off the women's Reef Division, Nov. 23, followed by Wisconsin vs. Syracuse. In second-day action George Washington will face the UW Badgers and Syracuse will face Vanderbilt. The 2017 Paradise Jam will conclude Nov. 25 with Vanderbilt vs. Wisconsin and George Washington vs. Syracuse.
Game times and viewing options will be announced at a later date.
The 2017 Paradise Jam features nine alumni teams, including four past Paradise Jam champions on the women's side. Five men's teams, including Drake, Drexel, Mercer, Quinnipiac, and Wake Forest, have previously competed at the Paradise Jam. Four women's teams, including Syracuse, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, have each previously competed and won the Paradise Jam.
The 19th Annual Sun Stroke All V.I. Hoop Classic kicks off Saturday, April 15, 2017. There will be a Celebrity Basketball game beginning at 5:00 p.m. in the Ronald Charles Gym at St. Croix Central High School. There will be a Women's High School All Star game at 6:30 p.m. and a Men's High School All Star game beginning at 8:00 p.m. The Celebrity Game will be highlighted by Brandon Royal of this year's NBC The Voice, Paebak along with other Virgin Islands artists and media personalities. T... [read more]
The 19th Annual Sun Stroke All V.I. Hoop Classic kicks off Saturday, April 15, 2017. There will be a Celebrity Basketball game beginning at 5:00 p.m. in the Ronald Charles Gym at St. Croix Central High School. There will be a Women's High School All Star game at 6:30 p.m. and a Men's High School All Star game beginning at 8:00 p.m. The Celebrity Game will be highlighted by Brandon Royal of this year's NBC The Voice, Paebak along with other Virgin Islands artists and media personalities. The Special Guest of the evening will be the return of 2005 Pro Bowl Selection and Crucian Hanik Milligan. This tournament has been successfully used to showcase the best high school basketball players in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands since it's inception. This year Sun Stroke has solicited the services of Max Ivan of D1Nations from Arizona to provide professional evaluations of the players that could lead to scholarship opportunities. In addition to Saturday night's activities there will be an Open Run at noon in the presence of Mr. Max Ivany for talented underclassmen that were not selected to the All Star game and players just out of high school at noon. This emphasizes the purpose of the event which is to provide talented basketball players an opportunity for athletic scholarships. The event is also loads of fun so in that vein the Miami Heat Mascot Burnie will be performing and there will be giveaways from the tournament's primary sponsor Tim Duncan, the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat. This event has also highlighted the biggest names in VI music as well as the best basketball players in the territory. Two of the best young bands on St. Croix in Hypa Aktiv and In-Stylez will work together to entertain the crowd in the post game Jam Session that ends at midnight. The band that gets the crowd most involved gets a bonus. Admission for this event is $10. EVERYTHING is covered by the event organizers at no cost to the players and coaches. The event is sponsored in part by Tim Duncan, adidas, The Department of Education, Banco Popular, Bates Trucking, United Sporting Goods and Sun Stroke Promotions. This year's High School All Star selections include:
St. Croix Women's Selections Jendeyi Williams, St. Croix Central High Rashanika Williams, St. Croix Central High Jahnyra Donovan, St. Croix Central High Ah'Zyah Lake, St. Croix Central High Sydney Fleming, Good Hope Country Day Parissa Terrell, St. Croix Educational Complex Sedeja Fieulleteau, St. Croix Central High Shanyce Horsford, Educational Complex Breyanna Roberts, Educational Complex Shania Barnes, Central High Coached by: Head Coach Donald Bough, Central High
St. Thomas Women's Selections Jahnia Simmonds, Ivanna Eudora Kean High Nailea Nicolas, Ivanna Eudora Kean High Delma Baron, Ivanna Eudora Kean High Shauliqua Fahie, Elmore Stoutt High (Tortola) De'Jah Vigilant, Charlotte Amalie High Tecoya Martin, Ivanna Eudora Kean High Rhea Benjamin, Charlotte Amalie High Taylor Robinson, Antilles Replaced by Da'Jah Vigilante, Charlotte Amalie Taria Southwell, Charlotte Amalie High Laresha Martin, Eudora Kean
Coach Derek Heyliger, Eudora Kean St. CROIX Male Selections Shakeem Alcindor, Educational Complex Zion Jones, Central High Kahdeem Horsford, Educational Complex Ashoy Simmonds, Central High Christian Rassmussen, Good Hope Country Day Jakeem Auguste, Central High Diante Brooks, Good Hope Country Day Trejon Ali, Central High James Richardson, Educational Complex Darian Dowling, Home School Replaced by Kimani McIntosh, Central High
Coach Earl Baker, Good Hope Country Day St. THOMAS Male Selections Devon Freeman, Eudora Kean Akil Greig, Eudora Kean Dwayne Lynch, Charlotte Amalie Emari Howe, Eudora Kean Replaced by Terrell Lake, Charlotte Amalie Cam Newton, Antilles Clail Dieudonne, Charlotte Amalie Issa Tatem, Charlotte Amalie Lestin Wiltshire, Elmore Stoutt Ty Massaquoi, Gifft Hill Joshua Farell, Antilles Head Coach Boyd Todman, Charlotte Amalie
Rashidi Clenance Sun Stroke Promos/Win Mill Sports Bar
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