CJ Walker knows a thing or two about what it takes to make it as a high-major college basketball player. Approaching his final season at Ohio State, the Indianapolis native initially committed to Purdue, switched to Florida State and then transferred to the Buckeyes after two seasons with the Seminoles.
So when he gives advice to the next generation of players, Walker knows what he’s talking about. Tuesday, Walker was a featured speaker for the Mid-Ohio Pumas AAU program, where he discussed his journey, his NBA hopes and, most relevant to his audience of more than 70 players, what it takes to get recruited.
Walker came up with a few suggestions.
"I would say AAU helps a lot," he said. "You’ve just got to find a way to separate yourself and make yourself different. (As a point guard), you’ve got to always be involved. You’ve always got to be aggressive. I never backed down from anyone. I always had confidence and that helped me a lot."
Eventually a three-star prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Walker as a senior picked Florida State from a list of schools that also included Illinois, Pittsburgh, Butler, Missouri, Florida, Virginia, West Virginia and Cincinnati. While going through the process, Walker told the younger players that juggling on-court responsibilities is important but keeping up with academics even more so.
He had committed to Purdue as a sophomore.
"You’re cool with everybody, you’re building a name for yourself in basketball, you’re going to AAU tournaments and camps, so staying academically focused was a big thing for me," he said. "In high school, stay academically focused all the time."
Walker averaged 8.7 points during his first season of eligibility at Ohio State and was sixth in Big Ten play with a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio. He figures to return for his fifth season, but Walker has entered his name into the NBA draft process while retaining his collegiate eligibility.
He told the youngsters that the opportunity to explore his draft options is part of a lifelong dream come true, even if the COVID-19 pandemic has basically ruled out any chances of in-person workouts.
"I told them I wanted to declare to take this opportunity just to see where I’m at within the NBA draft and how I can see myself getting to the NBA," he said. "So far it’s basically getting feedback from GMs, scouts, getting feedback from coach (Chris) Holtmann and calls for myself. Different agents, talking to them and seeing how the process is going. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there is going to be much individual workouts for teams so it’s mainly the type of feedback from these coaches.
"I’m taking all the info they’re giving me, sizing myself up to see where I fit. Whether I stay in the draft or whether I come back, just to be able to see where I’m at and what I need to do this year to next year try to get to the NBA."
When it came to picking a school, Walker challenged his listeners to make sure they are asking the right questions while being recruited.
"Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are concerned about something, like if you’re far away from home are you going to be able to go home enough or things like that," he said. "Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you are concerned about something, like if you’re far away from home are you going to be able to go home enough or things like that. At Florida State, things didn’t go my way obviously because I didn’t ask the right questions. That’s what made me make my decision to go where I am today."