UH Moment: Jarace Walker, Marcus Sasser Taken in NBA Draft First Round

“Walker was taken at No. 8 by the Indiana Pacers while Sasser was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the No. 25 pick”



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University of Houston Men’s Basketball stars Marcus Sasser and Jarace Walker began their professional careers after being selected in the First Round of the 2023 NBA Draft inside Barclays Center on Thursday evening.

Walker was taken at No. 8 by the Indiana Pacers while Sasser was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the No. 25 pick. They became the 47th and 48th Men’s Basketball student-athletes, respectively, to be selected in the NBA Draft and the first since guard Quentin Grimes was taken with the 25th pick of the First Round by the New York Knicks.

Walker and Sasser also were Houston’s 13th and 14th First-Round Draft picks in school history.

Both student-athletes played key roles in leading the Cougars to a 33-4 overall record, the American Athletic Conference regular-season championship with a school-record 17-1 mark, the nation’s #1 ranking for seven weeks and the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in 2022-23.

At No. 8, Walker was the highest Cougar taken in the NBA Draft since Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon was selected with the No. 1 overall pick by the Houston Rockets in 1984.

Walker joined the Cougars as a heralded 5-star recruit and exceeded those preseason expectations.

In 2022-23, Walker ranked second among the Cougars and among The American’s leaders with 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game with double-doubles against North Florida and American rival SMU.

He was named the American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and was named to the league’s All-Conference Second Team. Walker also earned a place on the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District 24 First Team and was a finalist for the 2023 Kyle Macy Award, presented to the nation’s top freshman.

He was named The American’s Freshman of the Week six times, tying a school single-season record for weekly awards of any kind.

In his collegiate debut, the New Freedom, Pa., native scored eight points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a win over Northern Colorado inside the Fertitta Center

Walker finished with a game-high 17 points and seven rebounds and added four assists, a blocked shot and steal in the Cougars’ road win at #2/2 Virginia. He was named the CBS Sports/USBWA National Freshman of the Week following that performance, the first of two national weekly honors in 2022-23.

After electrifying Houston fans with his decision to return for his senior season, Sasser lived up to the preseason hype.

The 2023 recipient of the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award, Sasser was a Consensus First-Team All-American – the program’s first since Olajuwon in 1983 – and was one of five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award presented by Wendy’s. He also was named the American Athletic Conference and United States Basketball Writers Association District VII Player of the Year.

He led the Cougars and ranked eighth in the American Athletic Conference with 16.8 points per game and stood among the league’s Top-15 leaders in assists (3.1 apg, 14th), free throw percentage (84.8, 5th), 3-point field goal percentage (38.4, 8th), 3-point field goals per game (2.7, t-4th) and assist-turnover ratio (1.95, 5th).

The Dallas native posted 13 20-point games, including a career-best 31 points against South Florida on Jan. 11, with a team-high 31 double-digit scoring games.

However, Sasser did far more than shoot and score for the Cougars, ranking seventh in the league with 1.6 steals per game.

Sasser became the 50th 1,000-point scorer in Houston history and finished 15th among the Cougars’ career scoring leaders with 1,458 points. He also drained 274 3-pointers on 740 attempts during his career, setting Houston records in both categories.

• While Walker and Sasser are the 47th and 48th Cougars to be chosen, 49 Cougars have been tabbed in the NBA Draft. Olympic great and current Track and Field Head Coach Carl Lewis was taken in the 10th round of the 1984 Draft by the Chicago Bulls.
• This was the first time two Cougars were selected in the NBA Draft First Round since 1984. That year, Olajuwon was taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the Houston Rockets while guard Michael Young was taken with the 24th pick by the Boston Celtics.
• This marked the first time since 1987 that a pair of Cougars was chosen in the NBA Draft. That year, center Greg Anderson was taken with the No. 23 overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs while guard Rickie Winslow was a Second-Round selection by the Chicago Bulls.
• Walker and Sasser became the 16th and 17th NBA Draft picks under Head Coach Kelvin Sampson during his award-winning career. They also became the fifth and sixth First-Round selections in Sampson’s career and his second and third with Houston.
• This marked the first time Sampson had two student-athletes taken in the NBA Draft since Indiana’s Eric Gordon (First Round, No. 7, Los Angeles Clippers) and D.J. White (First Round, No. 29, Detroit Pistons) in the 2008 Draft.

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