How does one get into and complete three years of college without reading one book? Ask University of Connecticut basketball star Kemba Walker, who not only managed to do so, but is set to graduate a year early from the institution.
Walker, who has decided to forgo his senior season to enter this year’s NBA draft, made the stunning admission in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated.
As part of an independent-study course he had to take to be able to graduate this year, Walker read his very first book, Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete, last summer.
“That’s true,” he told the magazine. “You can write that. It is the first book I’ve ever read.”
And this points again to the sad state of affairs at the school’s men’s basketball program. Though UConn can trumpet their achievements on the basketball court—eight NCAA tournament appearances in the past decade and three championships since 1999—the school only graduates 25 percent of its Black players, according to recent figures. Eleven players out of 14 on this year’s NCAA Championship-winning squad are African-American.
And Walker, who openly admits reading his first book at 20, is set to become one of the program’s rare Black graduates next month following the completion of a few more courses.
Now, is it that surprising that more importance is placed on skills on the court rather than skills in the classroom, especially for superstar college athletes like Walker? No, not at all. But nevertheless, his interview shines a bright light on the calculating billion-dollar business of college basketball, where a young man who has been robbed academically his entire life is lauded while cutting down nets, and even handed a degree from a pretty decent institution. But to think, if it weren’t for all that basketball, he might have read more.
Walker’s next step, more than likely, is the NBA. But after his time in the league, then what? His very first book might come in handy then.
(Photo: AP Photo/Jessica Hill)