After coming to Colorado as an under-the-radar recruit, Jabari Walker has blown up since the start of his freshman season. That will only continue as the California kid has been invited to the USA Basketball Under-19 World Cup training camp.
Walker is one of 27 invitees who will compete for one of 12 spots on the USA basketball team. He will spend June 20-22 playing against the top freshman and sophomores in the country, a group that includes five-star recruits Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga), Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Milwaukee), Hunter Sallis (Gonzaga) and Peyton Watson (UCLA), as well as freshman standouts Zed Key (Ohio State) and Adam Miller (LSU, formerly Illinois).
Walker will be testing himself against the best players in his age group, which could serve as a barometer for how his strengths and weakness compare to those elite prospects. If Walker impresses and makes the final team, that’s excellent news, because he’s going to spend the summer competing against these guys in practice while also playing high stakes basketball at the U19 World Cup.
The World Cup will be held in Riga and Daugavpils, Latvia, between July 3 and July 11. The Americans will compete against a field of Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, France, Japan, Lithuania, Mali, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Serbia, South Korea, Spain and Turkey. Their individual group will include Australia (without Josh Giddey), Mali and Turkey (without Alperen Şengün).
This invitation for Walker represents an uptick in the sophomore’s draft stock. Three-star prospects aren’t expected to go to the NBA, much less be one-and-dones, so there was zero buzz around him before his freshman year. But the 6’8 forward impressed with his shooting ability, his quickness and agility around the rim, and his continual growth on both ends of the floor. Now he’s being talking about as a potential second round pick in the 2021 draft, if he had decided to enter. Per Chad Ford’s rankings, Bari is one of the top returning prospects in the country, alongside Pac-12 rivals Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona) and Jaime Jacquez (UCLA).
We still don’t know what the Buffs will look like in 2021-22 — the starting lineup, the style of play without McKinley Wright, the primary scorers, etc. — but Walker figures to take a leap. He has to prove to be a consistent scorer against defenses keyed in on him, improve his positional defending and cut down on his foul rate (6.0 fouls per 40 minutes). If he does all of that, it’s going to be another fun season, albeit with the cost of him being in the NBA sooner than later.