Ohio State men's basketball spotlight: CJ Walker
Ohio State will open its 2018-19 men's basketball season by playing its first game at Cincinnati in 98 years. The Buckeyes and Bearcats will meet at the newly renovated Fifth Third Arena on Nov. 7, marking only the 11th time the in-state programs have met and the first time they’ve played each other within state lines since 1921. In preparation for the game, The Dispatch is counting down the final 14 days with power rankings for each of the members of the Ohio State roster. The series begins today and will continue each day until the start of the season.
No. 14: CJ Walker
Class: Junior (redshirting)
Height/Weight: 6 feet 1 / 195 pounds
Jersey number: 13
Background: As a prep standout at Indianapolis Arsenal Tech, Walker averaged 18.3 points per game for his career and was named the city’s player of the year as a senior. A four-star prospect, Walker was the No. 4 overall prospect from Indiana, the No. 24 point guard in the nation and the overall No. 113 recruit according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings. He held offers from Butler, which was coached by Chris Holtmann at the time, as well as Illinois and Cincinnati, among others, but signed with Florida State in the class of 2016. As a freshman, Walker played in 33 of 35 games for the Seminoles and averaged 4.9 points, 1.3 assists and 1.4 rebounds.
2017-18 stats: With Florida State, Walker increased those three averages to 8.0 points, 2.4 assists and 2.5 rebounds and added 1.0 steals per game while appearing in all 35 games, including 34 starts. That included starts in four NCAA Tournament games. He scored a career-high 24 points and four steals against Rutgers, handed out a career-high seven assists at Virginia Tech and grabbed a career-high six rebounds at Louisville.
Career stats: In 68 games for Florida State, Walker averaged 6.5 points, 1.9 assists and 2.0 rebounds while shooting 40.7 percent (148 for 364) from the field and 33.7 percent (56 for 166) from three-point range.
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Need to know: As a freshman, Walker was part of Florida State’s “Boom Squad,” a group of reserves who provided energy and production off the bench and accounted for 40 percent of the team’s scoring. At the end of the season, he was named the team’s sixth man of the year. He’s left-handed. Walker initially committed to Purdue before changing his mind and picking Florida State. Ohio State senior guard C.J. Jackson, this summer, on Walker: “The biggest thing is he’s talented and he brings toughness. He’s one of those coach Holt tough guards who will get in your face. He’ll be a tough person to guard every day in practice, and seeing that every day will be good for us as a team and for him in his sit-out year.”
2017-18 recap: Walker started the first 28 games of the season but was taken out of the starting lineup for a Feb. 28 game at Clemson and then returned to the lineup for the remainder of the season. Walker scored in double figures in five of the first eight games of the season but did so in only six more games during the remainder of the season. His playing time dwindled, too, as he saw 10 minutes of action in the team’s lone game in the ACC Tournament before playing a season-low nine minutes in an opening-round NCAA Tournament game against Missouri. However, Walker played 24 minutes in a Sweet 16 win against Gonzaga and 23 minutes in an Elite Eight loss to Michigan. In five postseason games, Walker scored 17 points and had three assists against nine turnovers.
2018-19 outlook: Walker can’t help the Buckeyes on the court this season, but he is expected to challenge Ohio State’s guards while working on the scout team and has looked impressive when available during early portions of the preseason. He did miss some time with a shoulder injury, but it is not expected to affect his practice availability for the season.