UCONN’s Kemba Walker is having one of those weeks – or more accurately – one of those conference tourneys. He’s breaking ankles, busting game winners, sinking daggers, grabbing loose balls and opening doors for a rather middling supporting cast. All told, Walker has been putting on a show, particularly last night when he pretty much wrecked Syracuse once he got going midway through the first half.
While Walker’s effort this week has been outstanding, he would have to go ballistic tonight for me to remember this week in the same way I remember the 1995 ACC tourney. And that is because as good as Walker has played, he has some work to do before he matches what Randolph Childress did sixteen years ago.
Some of my “conference tourney” memories have faded in recent years as conference tourneys have become more irrelevant, but Chilly’s performance from 1995 still stands in my mind as the greatest three-day outburst I have ever seen and the one that others are judged. For those who need a refresher course, here it is ….
He opened against Duke by hitting them up for forty points and nine assists on 13-18 shooting. Next up was Virginia, which was known as a very solid defensive team, led by a stud defender in Howard Deane. All Chilly did that Saturday was finish with thirty as he led Wake back from an eight point halftime deficit. Finally, on Sunday, Chilly exploded as an underdog against North Carolina, lighting up Jerry Stackhouse and Jeff McInnis for 37 points on NINE threes. With a gun to my head, I would nominate the performance against UNC as one of the five best college basketball performances I have ever seen.
Childress abused the Tar Heels that day like President Clinton abused the Republicans that same year. Forget stopping Childress … the Heels couldn’t slow him down to 80, let alone the speed limit. And it wasn’t like he was doing it against chumps or some passive zone. To be fair, he demolished a stacked team that featured two future NBA stars, a Final Four MOP, and a couple of other players who were ACC standouts. Sure, Chilly may have had the 8th best player of all-time on his side, but that player was young at the time and Tim Duncan’s presence was not the reason that Wake team won the 1995 ACC tourney. Instead, that weekend was all about Randolph Childress and an offensive juggernaut that stands alone as the greatest I have ever seen in a conference tourney.
Now just because Kemba Walker doesn’t compare favorably to Childress doesn’t mean Walker hasn’t done great work this week. Because there is no denying Walker has had an OUTSTANDING four games. Well, more like a “who cares” against Depaul, an excellent game versus Georgetown, a good game against Pitt that featured a great finish and a ridiculous outing last night versus the Orange. But caveats aside, Walker has owned this Big East tourney. And in doing so, he probably has earned his way into my “Randolph Childress Hall of Fame” which honors those who do great work in their conference tourneys. Walker may need another big night to guarantee induction but as of this morning, he is close. Really close.
Editors Note: I would just like to remind Jim Calhoun and Walker’s staunchest allies that little Kemba shot just 39.5% from the field during Big East play this season. Sorry, but that takes “great” out of the equation. He may have played great in Hawaii and over the past week, but you can’t simply overlook the fact that this guy didn’t make a shot for six weeks.