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2021 WNBA Draft Watch: Jasmine Walker inching closer to achieving WNBA dream

Alabama forward Jasmine Walker put her dream of playing in the WNBA into writing years ago. She’s done nothing but improve since then, becoming one of the best players in the SEC during a senior season that will likely be her ticket to the pros.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 20 Women’s Alabama at Tennessee
Jasmine Walker (with ball) has been known for her 3-point shot, but her case as a WNBA prospect has grown thanks to increased efforts on the glass.
Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In each WNBA Draft, there are players whose dreams of playing professional basketball come true the moment their names are called — young women who have longed to play at the highest level and who have put in countless hours of work to make their dreams a reality.

Jasmine Walker, a 6-foot-3 forward from Montgomery, Ala., is one of those players. In a heartfelt piece for The University of Alabama’s online student-athlete publication, Walker describes the WNBA as being her ultimate goal since high school, when she realized that the league was a possibility for her since “everything just came so natural.”

Watching Walker play for the Crimson Tide, it’s hard to disagree. “Natural” is a perfect word to describe her game, and effusive praise from Alabama head coach Kristy Curry confirms what is already obvious on the court: Walker not only has the talent, but also the work ethic to play at the WNBA level.

Honors and statistics

Walker has been a consistent force for the Crimson Tide since she was a sophomore, playing at least 30 minutes per game in each of the past two seasons. She averaged better than 11 points and seven rebounds in each of those seasons and made a total of 113 triples during that span.

Entering the 2020-21 season, Walker was named to the Katrina McClain Award preseason watch list for the nation’s top power forwards. She was also named to the preseason All-SEC Second Team by conference coaches.

As a senior, Walker has lived up to those expectations. Through Jan. 27, she’s averaging career-bests in scoring (19.6 points) and rebounding (10.1) while shooting nearly 40 percent on 7.6 threes attempted per game. Walker has recorded double-doubles in more games (eight) than she hasn’t (six) and has eclipsed the 20-point mark in seven games.

How she helps the Crimson Tide

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 06 SEC Conference Women’s Tournament - Alabama vs Vanderbilt
You won’t find many smoother shooting forms than Walker’s.
Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Walker’s role for Alabama is that of many senior leaders: play a ton of minutes while pacing the team in several statistical categories. She’s climbed her way up the hierarchy for the Crimson Tide over the years and now rarely sits, playing 35.6 minutes per game.

Walker’s usage rate, per Her Hoop Stats, currently sits at 28.2 percent — about what one would expect from a player of her caliber. Despite this, Walker is more of a play finisher than playmaker, with Synergy Sports crediting only 5.5 percent of Alabama’s assists in the halfcourt to her name.

Does Curry have an issue with this? Absolutely not.

“It’s absolutely astounding to see her journey and what she’s accomplished”, Curry said after Walker scored her 1,000th point as a member of the Crimson Tide. “I love how she’s become not just a shooter, but a scorer, and it’s all because of her hard work.”

Curry went on to credit Walker’s improvements on the glass as well, which has been a key component of Alabama’s success. As a tweener forward who owns the role of No. 1 offensive option, Walker’s 21 percent defensive rebounding rate truly is a testament to her work ethic; those are numbers are typical of players who spend most of their time around the rim, but Walker, as more of a pure scorer, has nevertheless become one of the country’s best rebounders as well.

Walker’s greatest strength, though, remains her jump shot. An elite spot-up player (Synergy currently ranks her in the 96th percentile on such possessions), Walker has incredibly pure form on her jumper, boasting a quick, high release that yields plenty of perfect swishes.

It’s Walker’s player archetype that makes her an appealing WNBA prospect: a strong, durable forward who is an excellent 3-point shooter. Players like her are increasingly sought-after in today’s WNBA as teams integrate more and more 3-point shooting — and defensive versatility — into their lineups. For a coach seeking a player who can defend both forward positions while shooting at a good clip beyond the arc, Walker is an ideal candidate.

Watch her play

The Crimson Tide (12-2; 5-2 SEC) have a tough slate of games on the horizon, beginning on Jan. 28 with the No. 15 Kentucky Wildcats. The following Sunday, Alabama will take on the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks, and will then return home to play the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs on Feb. 4. All of these games will be broadcasted on SEC Network.

All statistics for the 2020-21 season are current through Jan. 27, 2021.