Why NBA teams should draft UH’s Jarace Walker, Marcus Sasser

Why NBA teams should draft UH's Jarace Walker, Marcus Sasser

Less than two percent of draft-eligible college basketball players make it to the NBA any given year. Those who do make it to the highest level are lucky if their career lasts more than five seasons, with the average NBA career historically hovering around 4 1/2 years.

The University of Houston has two players—Jarace Walker and Marcus Sasser—who not only will hear their names called during June 22nd’s NBA draft, but that UH head coach Kelvin Sampson believes can carve out long careers in professional basketball.

Aside from Walker’s frame and natural athleticism, Sampson says the improvement he displayed on both ends of the floor throughout his freshman season at UH is a big reason why NBA teams are so high on the 6-foot-8 forward. During the past season, Sampson called Walker one of the most coachable freshmen he’s ever had in his more than three decades as a collegiate coach, praising Walker for his desire to take instructions and willingness to ask well-thought-out questions when he didn’t understand something.

“Jarace just got better and better and better,” Sampson said. “And I think that’s one of the things the NBA really liked about him.”

Forward Jarace Walker #25 of the Houston Cougars takes a shot between guard Wooga Poplar #55 of the Miami Hurricanes during the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Midwest Regionals held at T-Mobile Center on March 24, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Andy Hancock/NCAA Photos/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Walker, who is expected to be a top-10 pick in this year’s draft, is just a 19-year-old who is still growing into his body and has plenty of room to develop in every aspect of the game. This is another reason for Sampson’s confidence that his former player will stick around in the NBA for a while.

“Jarace is 19 years old,” Sampson said. “His best basketball is four, five, six years from now. Not now, not last year, not this year.”

Sampson believes the best fit for Walker during the early years of his NBA career is with a team where he can be surrounded by veterans and not relied upon to score 20 points a night. Playing on a UH team full of  “alphas” had a part in why Walker was able to make so many strides in his development in just one college season, according to Sampson, who noted that the experience taught Walker how to play winning basketball.

“If he’s on a team with some older guys that he can make them better by playing a role early in his career, I think he’ll evolve into a scorer,” Sampson said.

Sasser, on the other hand, is not as touted as a prospect in the eyes of the public. One of the biggest knocks on the projected late first-round or early second-round pick is his size. Measuring in at just over 6-foot-1 at the NBA Draft Combine, Sasser is undersized for an NBA guard. That doesn’t bother Sampson because Sasser plays much taller than his actual height.

“How tall you are is not nearly as important as how tall you play,” Sampson said.

Sampson pointed out that Sasser “has got good bones” and is structurally built the way NBA teams like. While Sasser probably won’t ascend to the level of stardom that he did at UH, the proven sharpshooter and underrated defender has the tools to become a solid role player for a contending NBA team.

Now, it’s just a waiting game to see what uniform Sasser and Walker will put on next.

“Those guys are getting a little itchy,” Sampson said. “Another month.”

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