Despite only having 28 NBA games to his name, 30 year old Walker Russell Jr. plays like a savvy veteran whenever he hits the D-League hardwood.
On a stage where most NBADL athletes chomp at the bit hoping to get noticed by an NBA executive or two, Russell Jr. happened to thrive under the pressure on Wednesday night. A key contributor in the Showcase host Bighorns' impressive 94-90 victory over the BayHawks, the point guard added 17 points, but more importantly dished out 8 assists. Furthermore, Russell Jr. went on to sink all nine of his free throws. There's no doubt that some of those very shots from the charity stripe were ones that helped Reno secure the exhilarating win.
Though he may not have the most consistent jump shot, all of the other things the 30 year old does well on the court more than make up for what is perhaps his only shortcoming. With an aggressive first step to the basket, Russell Jr. likes to charge ahead and often draw the foul from his defender. In addition, his court vision is second to none when it comes to other D-League floor generals. He sees the floor well, and likes to penetrate and/or slow things down as needed, with respect to setting the table for his teammates.
Though Russell Jr. only recently joined the Bighorns via a trade with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, it just so happens he got a head start working with one of Reno's better talents this past summer. The floor general played alongside big man Jerome Jordan on the Knicks' Summer League team last year. He went on to say that the pair had only continued to build that existent chemistry since being united in the D-League.
"I love playing with Jerome," Russell Jr. gushed. "I haven't played with a big man like that in years. Our chemistry is starting to come along more and more, so he and I are starting to click a lot. It's going to be really good. Once we get it down pat, maybe we can be like Raymond Felton and Amar'e Stoudemire or Tyson Chandler."
Whereas Jordan is somewhat of a young up and comer, Russell Jr. has been around the block, from the D-League to overseas, then to the NBA, and back again. Though some may not expect it, the point guard is able to keep his composure just as well as anybody on the floor. After spending a good chunk of last season with the Pistons, Russell Jr. hopes it will be his steady efforts as of late that will help him break into The Association yet again.
"I've been waiting," he said. "My whole thing is that I've always thought I could play on the NBA level. It's just about getting an opportunity. Obviously, when Detroit gave me one, they kept me on board for the year. I produced up there, man. It was unfortunate how things went down, but now it's not about proving I can play anymore. Everyone knows I can play. It's just about patiently waiting for that next opportunity, and that's what I'm doing."
As he looks ahead to what's next, Russell Jr. adds that he's optimistic for what the rest of season may bring his way. The guard said, "My agent has called me with a lot of positive energy from teams. It's just about being more consistent. I have to be consistent. If I put together a strong string of games together, I think I should get up to the NBA again."
While promising prospects always hold plenty of hope for the future, NBA teams may be more interested in acquiring a player who can make a steady impact as a backup and hold his own come playoff time as well. If Russell Jr.'s ability to embrace a leading role with the Bighorns is any indication, he can do just that and more for competing squads.