One of the reasons Virginia Tech has not been an attractive destination for highly-touted basketball recruits is their lack of success putting players through to the pros. This is a huge reason why top football recruits will go to Alabama - Nick Saban simply gets his players drafted into the NFL. The Hokies have put 13 players into the NBA throughout their history. Only three of the eleven have been from this side of the millennium, and only six have gone on to amass 100 career NBA games played. Although Buzz Williams has created a winning program once again in Blacksburg, it is still unlikely anyone on the roster has a solid future in the NBA. Those types of stats keep recruits away from certain colleges, and unfortunately, Virginia Tech has suffered as a result.
However, the Hokies' fortunes could change. Four-star SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who committed to the Hokies in May, is talented as anyone in the country and he has put on a clinic this summer. The 2017 prospect has been playing outstanding basketball over the last few months in various competitions, most notably for Team Canada in the FIBA U18 and Adidas Nations tournaments. In these tournaments, Walker was an absolute menace from behind the arc. He was even named International Player of the Week by FIBA.
98 born 6-5 Nickeil Walker avgd 12.6 ppg & 3.0 rpg in 6 games @ adidas Nations for Team Canada. 61% from field, 58% behind arc. #CdnBallers— CANADIAN BALLERS (@Cdn_Ballers) August 2, 2016
Those percentages and performances put him on the radar for NBA scouts watching the tournament, looking for young talent. Walker has people simply raving about his game.
#AdidasNations Team Canada guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker looks like a legitimate NBA 1st rounder amongst the nations top players tonight.— William Langford (@WilliamL_SEN) August 2, 2016
Not just an NBA prospect, but a 1st rounder? That is some sky-high, yet deserved, praise for the 6-5 guard. NBA players typically get noticed by scouts around Walker's age so this is fantastic news for him. Buzz Williams did a masterful job locking him up early - the way Walker is developing and showcasing his talents, it would be nearly impossible to recruit him amid the attention he would be receiving. Recruiting sites will modify their rankings eventually, and do not be surprised when Walker's name jumps up the list.
Don't know when these sites update their recruiting rankings but Nickeil Alexander-Walker has done enough to be a 5-star player.— Ridiculous Upside (@RidicUpside) August 2, 2016
The sole commit of the 2017 cycle for the Hokies certainly has skills that translate well to the pros. Walker's 6-5 frame combined with his smooth release will make it tough for players to contest his shot. He has the handles and athletic ability to slide past defenders who are overaggressive on their closeouts. Most importantly, he has the work ethic to continuously adapt his game as he faces better competition.
The NBA is where Walker sees himself in the future as well.
"Most definitely," said Walker when I asked him about his NBA aspirations. "That's the part of the ultimate goal - to eventually become a pro and go against the top dogs everyday for a living."
If Walker continues to play lights out in international competitions, tournaments, and with Virginia Tech, there's no reason why he can't break the Hokies' drought of impact players in the pros. It would certainly benefit Buzz Williams' program if he can successfully make that leap, attracting more high-quality talent to Blacksburg.