May 25, 2024

2024 NBA Draft: Baylor’s Ja’Kobe Walter, a possible lottery pick, Big 12 Freshman of the Year, declares

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Colgate vs Baylor

Baylor guard Ja’Kobe Walter is entering the NBA Draft after winning Big 12 Freshman of the Year, he announced Monday on social media. At 6-foot-5 and with great length and athleticism, Walter proved to be a versatile off-ball perimeter threat during his lone season with the Bears while playing in a rugged conference.

Walter started every game for Baylor, helping the Bears to a 24-11 (11-7 Big 12) record and a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The McKinney, Texas, native is projected as a potential lottery pick after delivering on the hype he generated as a five-star prospect in the Class of 2023.

Though just 19 years old in a veteran-oriented Big 12, Walter led Baylor in scoring at 14.5 points per game and reached double figures 26 times. The strong campaign set Walter up to follow other former Baylor players such as Keyonte George (2023), Jeremy Sochan (2022) and Davion Mitchell (2021) in being first-round picks under coach Scott Drew.

Ja’Kobe Walter’s NBA Draft projection

Like many young players, Walter has elements of his game to iron out, particularly when it comes to shot selection and building the strength needed to finish through contact. But all the tools are there for him to make it in the NBA. He looks and plays bigger than 6-foot-5, can score at all three levels and has the motor to become a high-level defender.

Walter ranks No. 7 in the 2024 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings from CBS Sports. He landed at No. 12 in a recent mock draft from Kyle Boone after he finished his season.

“Where Walter lands in this class could range between 5 and 15, but I can’t imagine it’s further than that,” Boone wrote. “He’s a high-level shot maker who was a touch inconsistent at times for Baylor as a freshman but has the background and pedigree to slot into the NBA as a reliable two-guard.”

Impact on Baylor

Through 21 seasons at Baylor, Drew has established his program as a legitimate pathway to the NBA. Walter is merely the latest example of how playing for the Bears can get highly touted young prospects where they want to go. Drew likely never expected to have Walter for more than one year, and Baylor is on track to reload. Three top-50 prospects are committed to the Bears’ 2024 recruiting class, including five-star shooting guard VJ Edgecombe. As the No. 5 overall player in the class, per 247Sports, Edgecombe may be able to replace the production Baylor is losing amid Walter’s departure.