He’s made it because of his talent, his will, his overriding sense of being able to beat you. But he’s known by one name, and that signifies that he’s made it.


That’s how most of the college basketball nation knows Kemba Walker, Connecticut’s star player who has led his team on a postseason tour of dominance. The nation’s second-leading scorer (behind another one-namer, Jimmer) did what he does best — score — in leading the Huskies to the Big East Tournament title from a nine-seed and into the Final Four as a three seed.

“Kemba Walker is not a good player,” head coach John Calipari said after UK’s Elite Eight win, the accolades already flowing even as victory still sank in. “He’s a great player who has willed his team to where they are right now. And for some reason, I don’t think that will is going to diminish next weekend.”

Next weekend has turned into this weekend, as UK takes on Connecticut Saturday. Most of the attention, though, is on Walker. He averaged 23.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game during the season and won the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s top point guard.

UK was one of his victims, early in the year, in the championship game of the Maui Invitational. Walker scored 29 points in an 84-67 Connecticut win.

“In the first game, he really didn’t miss anything,” Brandon Knight said. “And he did it in many different ways. He scored in the paint, shot the jump shot. He is just a great player that has continued to play well throughout the season.”

Walker wasn’t a highly sought-after recruit. Calipari said in December he wished he had gone after him, but didn’t see him becoming this special of a player. Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said Brandon Jennings — who went to Europe instead of college — was his top priority, but when they weren’t sure they could get Jennings they went after “a kid we knew we could get: Kemba Walker.”

Jennings is now in the NBA. Walker is tearing up the college game.

“He’s an elite player,” Calhoun said.

For all the talk about the “Revenge Tour,” Connecticut — and Walker precisely — was one Calipari wasn’t fond of seeing.

“I don’t want Kemba again,” Calipari said. “I saw Kemba up close, and it was not fun. And DeAndre (Liggins) guarded him last time, and it was not fun.”

This is how Liggins described Walker’s game: “You can’t stop him.”

Liggins remembered that matchup vividly. He prides himself for his defense; that night, his defense was no match for Walker’s game.

“The first time we played them it was three games in three days and I was kind of worn out a bit,” Liggins said. “That’s still no excuse, but I had no legs. I was tired.”

Liggins will have had a whole week of rest this time around, but that doesn’t negate the challenge.

“He scores in bunches,” Liggins said. “He is going to score points, but I am going to try to make him work for everything.”

But sometimes it just can’t be done. Calipari recalled trying four different strategies to try to slow Walker down, and none worked.

“If I have to deny Kemba the ball and make someone else beat us, then I will do that,” Liggins said. “But if he shoots 25 shots and he makes them, oh well.”

Liggins said he is ready to face guard and clamp down. He didn’t trash-talk Walker the first game, but said he would if it helped shut Walker down.

“He is a great player,” Liggins said. “And everybody has witnessed that this year.”