PGU is counting down our 25 greatest Wildcats of all time. To see the honorable mention and how the rankings are formulated, click here.
#25: Hassan Adams (35.08)
#24: Sean Rooks (35.29)
#23: Anthony Cook (35.74)
#22: Al Fleming (37.31)
#21: Chase Budinger (37.52)
#20: Loren Woods (37.57)
#19: Michael Wright (37.85)
#18: Jud Buechler (38.07)
#17: Salim Stoudamire (39.15)
#16: Derrick Williams (40.31)
#15: Bob Elliott (41.86)
#14: Channing Frye (42.13)
#13: Richard Jefferson (43.86)
#12: Luke Walton (45.15)
Time as a Wildcat
The son of an NBA great and a consensus top 100 player coming out of high school, Luke Walton was faced with hefty expectations when he arrived at Arizona.
After sitting out his first year due to a stress fracture in his right foot, the San Diego native did not disappoint the next four seasons. While he wasn’t flashy and never excelled in scoring, his high basketball IQ and desire to make teammates better sealed his legacy as one of the better all-around players to put on an Arizona uniform.
Walton’s redshirt freshman season was somewhat of a roller coaster ride. He never broke 10 points during non-conference play but found his element against Pac-10 opponents, where he led the team in assists.
No doubt the performance that stuck out most was when he recorded his first career double-double — 15 points to go with 12 assists — against 2nd ranked Stanford. The Cats would win that game and later earn a No. 1 seed in the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
But in the season ending loss to No. 8 seed Wisconsin, Walton scored just one point and committed five turnovers. Clearly consistency was something he would have to work on.
In Walton’s sophomore season, it became clear that he was not your prototypical 6’8, 245 lbs forward. He could and did score in the post and rebound but he also was quick enough on defense to average 1.6 steals per game. He also dished out an average 6.3 assists, including four in the national championship game.
Poor shooting kept Walton from the starting lineup in 2000-01 but as a junior, he developed a scorer’s mentality, as he hit the 20 point mark nine times, including a career high 27 at home against USC. In that game, he also had 11 rebounds and 10 assists, giving him one of the only nine triple-doubles in school history.
His season scoring average of 15.7 points per game was second on the team, only behind Jason Gardner.
After earning first team All-American accolades, Walton was expected to further improve his numbers in his fifth year senior season. However, injuries forced him to miss four games and he never looked as explosive on offense as he did the previous year.
Nonetheless, Walton put together an impressive stat line, averaging 10.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, and a team high 5.1 assists. In his final game as a Cat, the heartbreaking regional final loss to Kansas, he recorded a double-double and helped keep Arizona in it until the end.
Career After Arizona
Walton was the 32nd overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, selected by the Lakers. He played in Los Angeles for eight full seasons and was a contributor to their championships in 2009 and 2010.
During the NBA lockout, Walton joined the Memphis Tigers bench as an assistant. Memphis of course is coached by former Arizona player and assistant Josh Pastner.
In March of this year, the Lakers traded the forward to the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he played minimal minutes for the rest of the season.
While Walton never put up extraordinary scoring numbers in his time at Arizona, he did well in every statistical category. His play all-around play didn’t go unnoticed, seen by his aforementioned 2001-02 first team All-America honor. He was also first team All-Pac-10 as both a junior and senior.
Unlike many of the other guys on this list, Walton is not all over the school record books, but anyone who saw him play in person could easily tell how skilled of a basketball player he was in college.
After sticking around five years, Walton has had a lengthy NBA career and forbidding any injuries, he should continue to play for at least a few more seasons.