Walker joins Kansas State, will play this season

Updated: November 3, 2006, 3:40 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Bob Huggins delivered on his promise to bring big-time recruits to Kansas State on Friday when Bill Walker signed a scholarship aid agreement and officially became a member of the 2006-07 Wildcats.

Walker, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward, should make an immediate impact on the wing for the Wildcats when he becomes eligible Dec. 16, just in time for a Dec. 17 game against Kennesaw State in Manhattan, Kan.

The good news for the Wildcats is that barring a legal challenge, Walker will be with the team for at least the next two seasons. NBA spokesman Tim Frank has told ESPN.com that the NBA won't bend its rule forcing players to wait until a year after they graduate from high school before they can declare for the draft.

Walker, who played with O.J. Mayo at North College Hill (Ohio) High, graduated early from high school this fall after taking an accelerated path to get his diploma and earning a qualifying standardized test score. He did so after the Ohio High School Association ruled him ineligible, as he had already played eight semesters of high school basketball. That means Walker wouldn't be eligible for the NBA draft until 2008 at the earliest.

"He's a great kid," Huggins said Friday. "It's really exciting. He was unquestionably the most explosive athlete on the summer circuit the last few years. He's very unselfish and plays hard and rebounds."

Huggins, who remained for a year in Cincinnati after he was forced out as the University of Cincinnati's head coach, recruited Walker while he was the Bearcats' coach and said he's seen Waker play more than anybody else.

Walker is on campus but can't practice or go through team-sponsored activities. Huggins said Walker will run on his own, but added that's "not basketball shape."

Huggins said he's not concerned about how quickly he'll be able to integrate Walker into the team system once he's eligible.

"Bill picks up things very quickly," Huggins said. "He's a very intelligent kid. He can do some things that other people can't do. He plays so much above the rim. He'll recover quickly."

Huggins said he'll simplify the offense when Walker's in the game so that they can bring him along slowly.

"What I don't want to do is sacrifice the end of the year for the first four games," Huggins said of coaching two teams with two different plans -- one with Walker and one without.

Getting Walker for potential games against Wichita State and New Mexico and then for the Big 12 season should be a huge boost for the Wildcats. Kansas State is still thin at point, where Clent Stewart is the lone returnee along with newcomers Blake Young and Jermaine Maybank.

Walker adds to a strong wing unit of returning leading scorer Cartier Martin, Akeem Wright and David Hoskins. The Wildcats have two developing freshmen centers that should figure into the rotation in 7-3 Jason Bennett and 6-10 Luis Colon.

This fall, Kansas State received a commitment from Michael Beasley, regarded as the top forward in the recruting the class of 2007. Beasley is expected to sign with the Wildcats next week during the week-long November signing period.

Andy Katz is senior writer at ESPN.com

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com