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Walkup Warrior: SFA star gets chance in the NBA

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Although he wasn’t one of the 60 individuals whose name was called during the 2016 NBA Draft on Thursday night, former Stephen F. Austin men’s basketball star Thomas Walkupwas able to take the next step on his journey to becoming a professional player when the Pasadena, Texas, product learned of his selection to the NBA Summer League roster of the NBA’s reigning Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors on Friday afternoon.

Walkup is set to join no fewer than eight other individuals who comprise the Warriors’ NBA Summer League roster in Las Vegas, Nev., for the 11-day extravaganza which boasts the best up-and-coming NBA talent. Running from Friday, July 8 through Monday, July 18, the NBA Summer League will play all of its games at the Thomas & Mack Center and the Cox Pavilion on the campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

“I’m pumped about this opportunity,” said Walkup. “Last night during the NBA Draft things got a little crazy since some offers were constantly changing depending on who got picked up where, so while it was a little stressful it turned out to be the good kind of stress.

“After the draft wrapped up, I had a few different options in front of me, but I chose something with more of a no-strings attached feel so I could do what’s best for me and my future.”

A two-time AP Honorable Mention All-American, Walkup averaged 18.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game during his final season with Stephen F. Austin that saw the Lumberjacks roll to a 28-6 record which included a perfect 18-0 mark in Southland Conference play.

Led by the two-time Southland Conference Player of the Year and eventual Lou Henson Mid-Major Player of the Year, the ‘Jacks added yet another memorable chapter to March Madness when they upset third-seeded West Virginia via a 70-56 score in the 2016 NCAA Tournament’s opening round.

With guaranteed NBA Summer League contests against the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers already lined up for the Warriors, Walkup will have the opportunity to test his skills against the first and second picks of the 2016 NBA Draft.

“The Golden State Warriors are a great organization,” Walkup continued. “I had my workout with them the day following their game seven loss to the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, but that didn’t allow it to affect their workout process. That says a lot about their structure and mindset as a group. From the way that team plays, you can tell how their guys love playing for each other and the selflessness that’s on that squad.”

All the analytics on Walkup - notably the nation's second-best KenPom rating of 134.0 in the 2015-16 campaign - point to him being a point guard prospect in whatever level of professional basketball he has the opportunity to pursue in the future. 

“Without a doubt this is a very exciting time for me,” said Walkup of his opportunity. “It just keeps getting more and more exciting as the days go on, really. Getting the chance to play with and against guys who are NBA Draft picks and to have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder is something I’m really looking forward to.”

Only eight Stephen F. Austin men's basketball players in the history of the program have been drafted in the NBA and should his trajectory continue in an upward direction, Walkup may become the ninth.

“After things wrap up in the NBA Summer League, hopefully I’ll get an invite to training camp,” Walkup said. “As far as the games go and my mentality, there’s no added pressure. I just have to do what I do best and that’s play hard, play within myself and realize and adapt to my role.”

Each and every one of the 67 NBA Summer League games from Las Vegas will be presented for viewing by ESPN across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU and WatchESPN. The Warriors’ first NBA Summer League tilt is scheduled to take place on Saturday, July 9, at 9:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2 against the defending NBA Summer League champion San Antonio Spurs. For a full schedule of the NBA Summer League games, please click the link provided below.
 
2016 NBA Summer League • Golden State Warriors Roster (Partial)
Darion Atkins | 6’8 | 223 | Forward | Virginia
Robert Carter | 6’9 | 235 | Forward | Maryland
AJ English | 6’4 | 190 | Guard | Iona
Ognjen Kuzmic | 7’0 | 260 | Center | Panathinaikos (Greece)
Patrick McCaw | 6’7 | 185 | Guard | UNLV
Mamadou N’Diaye | 7’6 | 300 | Center | UC Irvine
Royce O’Neale | 6’6 | 215 | Forward | Baylor
Kiefer Sykes | 5’11 | 166 | Guard | UW-Green Bay
Thomas Walkup | 6’4 | 202 | Guard | Stephen F. Austin

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