- With the departures of two key scorers, the Hurricanes need Lonnie Walker to get buckets once his knee heals.
It should come as no surprise to college basketball fans that freshmen have come to possess a significant portion of the star power in the sport. Just look at this year’s NBA draft, where the first upperclassman was not selected until Duke sophomore Luke Kennard with 12th pick. So while some returning players will undoubtedly have a major impact in 2017–18 season, it’s important to get to know the new faces who may come to occupy the spotlight.
With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top 25 incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. We move to the No. 16 overall recruit, Miami’s Lonnie Walker.
What he means for Miami's recruiting class
Miami added a highly-touted shooting guard recruit last offseason in Bruce Brown; one year later, coach Jim Larrañaga is double-dipping into that pot with Walker, rated the third-best shooting guard in the class of 2017. The 6' 4", 196-pound Walker won’t be the only new Hurricane, though: joining him in Miami are diminutive point guard Chris Lykes (No. 14 at his position) and developmental big man Deng Gak. Walker is the most talented of the three and should see substantial minutes from the get-go, even for a Miami team that returns six guys from last season’s eight-man rotation.
How he fits
It’s going to take Walker some time to get into a groove for the Hurricanes, but that’s no fault of his own: He tore his right meniscus during practice earlier in July, and while he’s expected back for the team’s season-opener on Nov. 10, Larrañaga shouldn’t rush his top newcomer onto the court. Still, once he’s at full strength, Walker should start showing off his scoring prowess—his length makes him a creative finisher around the basket, and he’s an improving outside shooter, too.
Even though they’re in the same conference as the defending national champions and a fully-loaded Duke squad, the Hurricanes are a trendy sleeper pick to win the ACC. That’s largely based on who they brought back—Brown and Ja’Quan Reed, plus four other rotation pieces—but also hinges on Walker. Miami lost two key scorers in Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy, and if they expect to keep up with the other high-scoring offenses in the conference, they’ll need Walker to get buckets sooner rather than later. Provided his knee heals properly, he should be more than up to the task.