Baylor men’s basketball’s Ja’Kobe Walter follows train of elite freshmen

Baylor men's basketball freshman guard Ja'Kobe Walter (4) takes a jump shot from the left wing during the Bears' first team practice of the fall on Sept. 26 in the Ferrell Center. Lilly Yablon | Photographer

By Jackson Posey | Sports Writer

Baylor men’s basketball freshman guard Ja’Kobe Walter was named Preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year on Thursday, becoming the third-consecutive true freshman Bear to earn that honor.

Walter, a five-star guard and the No. 8 overall recruit in the country according to 247 Sports, joined fellow blue-chip recruits Kendall Brown (2021) and Keyonte George (2022) in winning the award. Walter beat out several other highly-touted athletes, including Iowa State freshman forward Omaha Biliew and Kansas freshman guard Elmarko Jackson.

“I feel like he’s just a good scorer all-around,” junior guard Jayden Nunn said of Walter. “Great shooter, has a good motor, great defender, and he’s just very lengthy and tall. So to just be able to do the stuff that he does is great. And now that he’s able to pass, he’s even … better. So he’s great, just a great player.”

Walter, a McDonald’s All-American, led McKinney High School to the Class 6A state championship game as a junior before transferring to Link Academy in Branson, Mo. While there, he led the Lions to a 24-1 record and a No. 2 finish nationally. To close the season, Walter scored a game-high 21 points to lead Link Academy to a 73-55 win over No. 7 Arizona Compass Prep in the GEICO National High School Invitational.

Moving to Link Academy gave Walter the opportunity to compete against the best of the best. And moving to the Big 12 will do the same, according to him.

“Keyonte [George] was definitely saying that the Big 12 is different,” Walter said of his conversations with the fellow Lewisville native. “Definitely different. And just watching it, you can tell Big 12 is different, but I think it’s the environment that we all want to be in. … I play my team every day in practice, which is [in the] Big 12, so I don’t think it’s going to be like anything [new or] crazy.”

Walter will have the opportunity to immediately step into a big role for the Bears, who lost all three perimeter starters in the offseason. George and Adam Flagler declared for the NBA Draft and LJ Cryer transferred to Houston. Head coach Scott Drew has leaned into guard-heavy rotations in recent seasons, and it’s led to production, as Baylor has finished with a top-25 offensive rating in each of the past three seasons.

Several players are still vying for those perimeter minutes, including guard transfers Nunn and senior RayJ Dennis, returners redshirt sophomore Langston Love and redshirt junior Dantwan Grimes, as well as fellow freshman newcomer Miro Little. That battle for playing time could continue into the nonconference portion of the season, but Walter brings athleticism and a shot-making ability that gives him a case to be in the starting lineup.