Knicks’ Kemba Walker signing excites NYC friends and family

Emanuel “Book” Richardson’s cellphone started vibrating late Wednesday morning and its frequency solely intensified over the subsequent a number of hours.

Like Richardson, the director of the famed New York Gauchos AAU program, former Rice High School coach Moe Hicks, former Rice participant Kashif Pratt, and former Rice assistant and Gauchos coach Dwayne Mitchell skilled the identical hectic — although ecstatic — day.

Everyone needed to speak about the return of Kemba Walker, the Bronx native who has agreed to a contract with the Knicks after being purchased out by the Oklahoma City Thunder. To many, the four-time All-Star, NCAA nationwide champion and McDonald’s All-American is again the place he belongs.

“When I got [the news] I was in tears — tears of joy,” Richardson, who coached Walker from the eighth grade via the top of highschool with the Gauchos and served as a mentor, instructed The Post in a cellphone interview. “It’s kind of like your baby coming home. You watch him become a man, you watch him grow up and you watch him mature. Next thing you know, you watch him come back home. Hopefully, this is it [for his career].”

The return of Kemba Walker electrified the city Wednesday.
The return of Kemba Walker electrified town Wednesday.
NBAE by way of Getty Images

The feeling of elation rapidly unfold all through your complete basketball group, not simply those that have been teammates or friends of the 31-year-old Walker. Knicks followers on social media have been ecstatic, suddenly thrilled with this offseason. Former highschool or AAU rivals expressed pleasure to see certainly one of their very own coming again residence.

“How can you not [love it]?” stated Joe Arbitello, the coach at Christ the King in Queens, certainly one of Rice’s chief rivals in Walker’s time there. “The guy’s a winner. He’s going to bring that New York City toughness. He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever met. He’s humble.”

At Christ the King’s summer time camp Wednesday, Arbitello stated Walker signing with the Knicks was the, “No. 1 topic of the day.”

Although he hasn’t lived full-time in New York City since his highschool days, Walker hasn’t misplaced contact with the 5 boroughs. In his early days as an expert, he would come and play within the metropolis’s streetball circuit. Two summers in the past, he attended CC Sabathia & Friends Celebrity Softball Game at Yankee Stadium. He has yearly run free basketball camps for teenagers within the metropolis and stays shut with a number of of his highschool and AAU teammates.

“A lot of young guys grow up probably wanting to play for the Knicks, at least play in the Garden,” Hicks stated. “It’s just a great opportunity [for him], a great situation. I think it’s a win-win for the city. You have a homegrown guy come home and play right here and be a pivotal part of the team, which he will be.”

The egoless and humble Walker has at all times been well-liked in New York City, even amongst St. John’s followers who needed him in Queens as a substitute of Storrs, Conn. Walker went from an unknown commodity early in his prep profession at since-shuttered Rice High School in Harlem to an elite prospect and nationwide champion at UConn to an NBA lottery choose by Charlotte (ninth total) in 2011. He waited his flip at every cease, and took benefit as soon as a possibility offered itself. Walker stays the highest-drafted participant from New York City who attended highschool right here since Joakin Noah went ninth to the Bulls in 2007.

Kemba walker's iconic step-back jumper at the 2011 Big East Tournament.
Kemba walker’s iconic step-back jumper on the 2011 Big East Tournament.
Anthony J. Causi

Now, after a considerably disappointing two-year stint with the Celtics largely because of knee issues, he’s coming again to New York City to play level guard for the hometown group.

“You get people from New York who are diehard Knicks fans and you get people who are fans of him because of him being from New York and the special player, person he is,” stated Pratt, now an NBA agent. “Now those Knicks fans get to root for him on their team. It’s amazing.”

In an ironic twist, Walker will share level guard duties with Derrick Rose. The two confronted one another in highschool within the Nike Super Six Invitational on the Garden in 2007, a recreation received by Rice over Simeon Career Academy of Chicago. Mitchell, a Rice assistant on the time, remembered it as the start of Walker’s rise, when he actually began in earnest to make a reputation for himself.

Rose was a heralded prospect, however he was held in examine that day by Walker and teammates Chris Fouch and LaMont “MoMo” Jones. Fourteen years later, the 2 will be part of forces.

“Kemba’s back home,” Mitchell stated. “I’m excited like everyone else.”

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