Former CJ basketball standout Walker content with decision to play at UK

Homesick at UConn, former CJ star can play closer to home with Kentucky in December.

Samarie Walker’s new college life at the University of Kentucky began Monday with her dad saying she is happy, relieved and ready to resume her basketball career.

“It didn’t work out (at Connecticut) because she could never get over being homesick,” Sam Walker said. “That was the only problem.”

A former Chaminade Julienne High School standout who grew up in West Carrollton and became a McDonald’s All-American, Samarie Walker left defending national champion UConn last week halfway through her freshman season. Kentucky announced her arrival by plastering her smiling face on the women’s basketball page of its website, along with a press release.

“Samarie is a fine young woman who I got to know well while recruiting her during her high school career,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said in the release. “She will have an excellent opportunity to make a significant impact.”

Sam Walker said his daughter’s choice came down to Kentucky or Dayton and that she went with Kentucky partly because she enjoyed “the Southern hospitality” on her visit in high school and thought the program seemed “family-oriented.”

The 6-foot-1 forward, who plans to major in sociology, can practice with the team but can’t play until the end of fall semester in December, when she will have 3½ years of eligibility remaining.

“This all started in the summer,” Sam Walker said. “She was calling home (from UConn), homesick and everything, so we told her to give it one year, at least try. And she did. She tried. But she was calling home every week, homesick.”

Nobody, least of all her parents, pushed Samarie to choose UConn, Sam stressed.

“We gave her every option before she even talked to them,” he said. “Dayton was seven minutes away, Wright State 15 minutes. Cincinnati and Xavier were 45 minutes away. Kentucky was an hour and 45 minutes away, Ohio State an hour.

“But UConn was her dream school, and she tried it. You can’t make them stay where they don’t want to be.”

Seen as a program on the rise, Kentucky is ranked No. 17 in the most recent Associated Press poll. The Wildcats are 15-4 overall and 4-2 in the Southeastern Conference.

“We’ve told Samarie it doesn’t seem like too many kids get a second chance,” Sam Walker said. “So make the most of it.”

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