Bill Walker went from being a high school senior to college in the first semester. He helped Kansas State pick up two potential key NCAA Tournament resume wins. And, he looked like he was on the verge of leading the Wildcats and coach Bob Huggins toward a top five finish in the Big 12.
But Walker's work is now done for the season, shelved for the next six to eight months with a ruptured ACL in his left knee, leaving the Wildcats to fend for themselves in the league and in a quest for a bid.
Kansas State sports information director Tom Gilbert confirmed Monday afternoon that an MRI showed Walker's rupture and surgery would be performed some time in the next two weeks. This is the second time Walker suffered an ACL injury, going through the surgery and rehab in his right knee in 2003.
The injury occurred a few minutes into the Wildcats' 69-65 loss at Texas A&M Saturday in College Station, Texas. Walker, who had started five of six games, was third on the team in scoring at 11.3 points a game, second in rebounding at 4.5. He scored 19 points in a win over USC in Las Vegas last month and followed that up with 13 the next night against New Mexico.
The Wildcats host Texas Tech Monday night.
Walker was ruled ineligible prior to the school year at North College Hill High in Cincinnati after it was determined he had already played in eight semesters of high school basketball. Huggins had been recruiting Walker for years, starting off when he was the head coach at Cincinnati. So, once Walker was ineligible, the Wildcats sped up the process and Walker finished his final class he needed to graduate. He then took a standardized test, received a qualifying score and got through the NCAA Clearinghouse in time to be admitted as a part-time student for the final few weeks of the fall semester. He was eligible to play at Kansas State on Dec. 17 against Kennesaw State, and despite only practicing one day, the previous day, he scored 15 points in 22 minutes.
The 6-6 Walker was considered a lottery pick whenever he decided to declare for the NBA draft. There were some rumblings among the summer grassroot organizers that Walker would attempt to challenge the NBA's draft rule in 2007. Walker is 19 but he wouldn't technically be a year out of high school (the new rule) until the fall of 2007, making him ineligible for the '07 draft. But Kansas State's staff contended for months that Walker was committed to playing at Kansas State for at least two seasons. Now, that seems moot with his injury likely keeping him out of any action until next fall. He would be eligible for the 2008 draft.
Huggins considered Walker one of the top athletes in the class and rising star. He didn't hesitate to load oodles of compliments on Walker once he was on K-State's campus.
"This is a truly a sad day for Bill and for our basketball program," said Huggins. "He was making such significant strides with our team in practice and was ready to make an even bigger impact in games. However, he has a great attitude in response to the injury and we expect him to make a complete recovery in time for the 2007-08 season."
Gilbert said Walker had a great attitude about the setback. And now he'll have to bring that same intensity to his rehab as he goes through an exhaustive recovery process.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.