Sophomore guard for the Virginia Tech Hokies Nickeil Alexander-Walker officially declared for the NBA draft on Sunday, April 7. Despite having draft buzz as a freshman, Alexander-Walker stayed at Virginia Tech for a second year and has become on of the top prospects in the draft. Now that the season has ended, he will be training and getting ready to be the face of the Hokies in the NBA. As Nickeil tries to become the highest drafted Hokies ever, here’s what we know and what to watch for...
Dear Hokienation,— Nickeil Alexander (@TheReal_NAW1) April 8, 2019
I am forever indebted, you accepted a young kid from Scarborough with open arms. This is always gonna be a place that I call home. I will never forget the first feeling of stepping on Cassell floor. Again Thank You. You are Loved dearly! pic.twitter.com/ojXxHzHnYR
Height: 6’ 5.5” (196.85 cm) for the Canadian readers out there
Weight: 205 (186.36 kg )
Armspan: 6’ 9” (205.74 cm)
Heading into the draft and the combine (if he participates), Alexander-Walker will be part of one of the most loaded draft classes ever. Even with big names coming from well-known programs, NAW was still able to keep his name known to scouts throughout the season. He’s got the correct body type, the character, the skills, and the potential to be a very successful player in the NBA now and for a long time.
The glowing strength for Nickeil Alexander-Walker is his shooting. He was one of the most consistent and accurate shooters in the ACC this past year. He can hit from three, mid-range, and does so off the dribble or off the pass. For the year, he shot around 37% from three and a little over 47% from the field. His wide spectrum of shooting as well as consistency stands out to scouts and will be a huge pickup for any team.
Another offensive strength would be his ambidexterity. Nickeil showed time and time again the ability to handle the ball at a high level, make a variety of passes, and finish at the rim with both hands at a high level. While he doesn’t yet possess blow-by speed, he uses his craftiness to get separation and has a good feel for finishing through contact or around it.
Another key offensive strength would be his play-making. In the absence of Justin Robinson, Alexander-Walker was tasked with the point guard’s duties and adjusted very nicely. Once Robinson went down, Alexander-Walker’s stats initially had a small setback, but he ended up adjusting very quickly and becoming a more versatile player in the end. He ended up more than doubling his assists per game from last year and became elite at dump off passes at the rim as well as skipping passes across the defense. A shooting guard that can play the point at a high level is a big plus in the NBA and will be a huge factor come draft night.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker was the best player on the court in the Duke/Virginia Tech game. He had an impact on both sides of the ball but his creation for others & being able to find the open man stood out the most— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) February 28, 2019
He finished with 6 assists but he had many more opportunities pic.twitter.com/SNQqvsK9Ws
Unlike other of top prospects, Nickeil plays at a high level on both sides of the ball. Alexander-Walker was a top tier perimeter defender during his sophomore campaign for the Hokies and will look to do the same in the NBA. He has the height and wingspan to easily contest shots on any perimeter player and has the discipline and quickness to stay in front of anyone. Moving off the ball, he averaged right at two steals a game this past year and did so by reading passing lanes and sliding over in help. He can defend any guard, a lot of wings, and has the IQ to know when to jump a pass, when to help, and when to stay home.
The big concern for Nickeil Alexander-Walker is a lack of athleticism. NAW is an athlete, but lacks that explosiveness and breakaway speed. As defenders get better in the NBA, his craftiness will be useful, but might not be enough to get by elite defenders. Hitting the weight room with NBA trainers will definitely be able to increase not only his strength, but his quickness, vertical, and speed. If he increases in those areas, his offensive and defensive game could be elevated to another level.
Along the same lines as the athleticism would be his frame. His upper body is set with wide shoulders and has filled out since his freshman year, but his lower body remains pretty slender. Beefing up a little and adding some more muscle in the weeks leading up to the draft and further down the road will be a point of emphasis as he heads into the next level.
The last concern for Alexander-Walker was his physicality. Due to the slender frame, guarding big wings was and is a concern. He has the skill set to stay in front of them, but being matched against a big shooting guard or a small forward that can play in the post would be a mismatch.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker possess the skills and intangibles to compete at high level in the NBA. Mock drafts have him going in the second half of the lottery or in the late teens most of the time, but he could sneak up higher as the draft gets closer. With the right trainer, he will be able to grow as an athlete, get stronger, and fill out his frame a little more. If he does those along with continuing to develop as a scorer, he will be poised to a key player for any team that drafts him for years to come.
To wrap it up, I got to speak with Nickeil Alexander-Walker one on one and asked what his time at Virginia Tech meant to him. Without hesitation he answered:
“It’s probably one of the best times I’ve ever had in my life. Definitely one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. I really feel like if I was to die today I’d be happy with my life. Virginia Tech gave me everything. They brought new meaning to basketball...Tech has a place in my heart forever and I’ll do anything I can to help this university.”
Nickeil Alexander-Walker was crucial to the revamp of Virginia Tech’s basketball program and we’ll all be routing for him as he takes the next step into the NBA. Check back weekly for updates and projections from mock drafts and always...