Class of 2017 shooting guard Lonnie Walker is raising eyebrows all over the country with his play as he approaches college, and John Calipari is one of the many NCAA coaches taking notice.
Walker was one of the top players in this year's Peach Jam, as 247 Sports notes that he was averaging 17.2 points, 6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2 steals during the competition. On top of that, he recently attended the Victor Oladipo Skills Academy as one of the best prospects in attendance.
This play has given Walker a lot of recognition with some big schools, including the defending National Champion Villanova Wildcats, the Miami Hurricanes, the Syracuse Orange, the Arizona Wildcats, the Alabama Crimson Tide, and, as previously noted, Kentucky, as well as several other schools.
It's clear that many coaches are high on Walker's abilities, and they haven't been shy when letting him know how they feel.
"Coaches tell me that they like my speed, athleticism, shooting ability and other things," Walker said, according to MadeHoops.com. "They also like that I can guard multiple positions."
Those coaches aren't lying to him; Walker has all of those tools, along with some added tenacity that you can see here.
Walker's talents and strengths are pretty clear to see. On the offensive end, he can score from every spot on the floor. Spot-up three, catch-and-shoot, layup, dunk, it doesn't matter. Not only can he score from so many places, but he can also do it both on the fast break and in the halfcourt. He's got the body control to handle one-on-one situations in transition and finish at the rim, but he can also cut to the basket with the ball in the half court and put his defender on a poster, or shield his man from the ball and lay it up and in. On top of that, he's capable of moving the ball in the open floor, keeping him from being just a scorer at the 2 guard spot.
With all of Walker's upside, he does have a couple major flaws.His rebounding is one. While grabbing boards won't be his biggest task since he is a guard, he needs to add that ability in order to excel as a versatile player. In addition to that, his off-ball movement on both ends of the floor is underwhelming. Despite this, his upside still outweighs the areas he needs improvement in.
Walker is becoming a major priority for Kentucky now that his Peach Jam performance has shown how great he can be. Kentucky offered a scholarship to Walker back in the spring, but they are now escalating their intensity in his recruitment, as Walker said they are "calling almost every other day."
It's not unlike Calipari to ramp up the intensity when he sees what a player can really do, as he does at times wait to be sure he wants to do everything he can to bring a recruit in. Walker appears to be of high importance for Kentucky now, as he should be. Not only is Walker very talented, but he has respect for Kentucky. In this moment with the media, Walker makes it clear how he feels about the Wildcats.
Among other praises of the program, Walker calls the offer "a blessing," and mentions that Kentucky has started contacting his family more frequently, but he also discusses his proximity to home, which is a huge factor for Kentucky. 247 Sports predicts that there is a 100% likelihood that Walker will go to Villanova and stay close to home (he is from Reading, PA), but his comments make that seem much less likely, especially when he talks about the fact that his dad would like him to go away for college. This bodes well for Cal and the Cats, as they hope to get Walker out of his home state and into Lexington.
Another aspect in Walker's college decision that will be good for Kentucky is the fact that he cares greatly about the relationship he has with his next coach.
"I need to see how the relationship with the coach is building and I also need to get a good feel for the environment," Walker said.
It's no secret that Calipari does a great job at building relationships with his players and relating to them, and that should help in Kentucky's effort to get Walker's commitment.
Walker doesn't yet have a list of schools that he is considering, but he seems to have interest in Kentucky, and he is considering an unofficial visit to an SEC foe.
"I haven't set any visits yet, but I may take an unofficial visit to Alabama on August 15th."
We noted before that Walker wanted to end the recruiting process sooner rather than later, but we're now discovering that he wants to decide by November, before his senior season even starts.
"I just want to get it out of the way and have fun my senior year. I don't want to worry about that during my final moments of high school."
Here's a highlight reel from Walker in this year's Peach Jam
There's also a highlights series on Walker via YouTube titled 'Remeber My Name,' which is exactly what UK fans should be doing by now.