Texas Tech basketball: UNC transfer could be exactly what Red Raiders need

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 23: Kerwin Walton #24 of the North Carolina Tar Heels against the UNC Asheville Bulldogs during their game at the Dean E. Smith Center on November 23, 2021 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 23: Kerwin Walton #24 of the North Carolina Tar Heels against the UNC Asheville Bulldogs during their game at the Dean E. Smith Center on November 23, 2021 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

In recent weeks, there has been quite a bit of smoke on the recruiting front concerning North Carolina transfer guard Kerwin Walton and the Texas Tech basketball program.  In fact, on Friday, Travis Branham of 247Sports put in a “crystal ball prediction” for Texas Tech in Walton’s recruitment.  That’s great news because Walton could be just what Mark Adams needs to round out his roster.

Walton is a 6-foot-5 native of Hopkins, Minnesota.  In the class of 2020, he was rated the No. 23 shooting guard and No. 133 player overall in the nation according to the 247Sports composite rankings.  He picked UNC over the likes of Arizona, Arkansas, Baylor, Kansas, Ohio State, Texas, and several other high-major programs.

What’s interesting is that during his freshman season in Chapel Hill, Walton displayed a skill that is essentially invaluable in the game of college hoops.  He proved to be a knock-down 3-point sniper.

In fact, by shooting 42% from 3-point range as a true freshman, he set a North Carolina program record for freshmen.  And it wasn’t as if he shot only selectively.  Rather, he hoisted 138 attempts from beyond the arc, making 58.  That’s the type of 3-point shooting that Tech would love to add this year.

But there might be a bit of a catch.  This past season, Walton fell out of the UNC regular rotation under first-year head coach Hubert Davis.

In fact, he started only one game after starting 20 the season prior.  Additionally, his minutes fell from 21.0 per game in 2020-21 to just 13.1 per game in 2021-22.

Some have suggested that Walton’s demotion to the bench could have been a result of the coaching change or it could have been because Davis leaned more heavily on fellow sophomores Caleb Love and R.J. Davis, both of whom averaged at least 34 minutes played per contest.

Also, Walton is not known as a defensive-minded player.  With a defensive rating of 106.3 last season, he was fourth-worst in that category out of all players who took the floor for the Heels in 2021-22 and that could have cost him some playing time as well.

Still, this is a player that Tech would be lucky to have.  That’s because it is easier to teach a player to play defense than it is to teach him how to shoot.  And Tech has had plenty of recent success in turning scorers into better-than-average defenders.

The most notable example was Matt Mooney in 2018-19.  When he arrived from South Dakota, the shooting guard was considered a defensive liability but by the time he left Lubbock after his lone season with Tech, he was an all-conference defensive guard.

Likewise, when Davide Moretti arrived from Italy in 2017, he was often lost on the defensive end of the floor.  But by the time he was a junior in 2019-20, he had a defensive rating of 98.4.  While that number is far from elite, anything under 100 is considered better than average and for sure Moretti was at least passable on the defensive end by the time he played his final season in scarlet and black.

Meanwhile, former transfer guard Mac McClung was reported to be a poor and unwilling defender when he arrived on campus prior to the 2020-21 season.  But he too improved enough in that regard to keep from being a liability on that end of the court as he posted a defensive rating of 98.4.

Ultimately, defense is more about the system that is being deployed than it is about the talent of the individuals executing it.  So much of playing solid defense at the college level comes down to being in the right position in respect to your teammates as well as being willing to put forth the effort to go all-out.

On the other hand, Tech has repeatedly tried to coax good shooting out of defensive-minded players and the results haven’t been as strong.  Most notably was Kevin McCullar Jr., who recently transferred to Kansas.  During his three years as a Red Raider, McCullar was as good of a perimeter defender as the program has seen but he never shot over 31.1% from beyond the arc.

Similarly, Clarence Nadolny has been in the program for three years and he’s never shot higher than 27.8% from deep in a season.  He’s the ultimate example of a player who goes all-out on defense but who can’t seem to pick up the art of the 3-point shot at the college level.

What’s more, this past season, Tech had five players who played at least 400 total minutes while shooting below 31% from the 3-point line.  That isn’t going to cut it, especially in the new offensive scheme of recently added assistant coach Steve Green.  The former South Plains College head coach will be Tech’s offensive guru this year and he values the 3-point shot patterning his offense after that of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.

So the Red Raiders have been on the lookout for better 3-point shooters this offseason and they have added a couple in D’Maurion Williams from Gardner Webb and De’Vion Harmon from Oregon. What’s more, Texas transfer Jaylon Tyson was known as a solid 3-point weapon in high school but he didn’t have much of a chance to prove that he could be the same as a college freshman after leaving Austin before the completion of the season’s first semester.

But none of those players have the ceiling that Kerwin Walton has as a shooter.  Thus, if Tech can add him to the mix in the upcoming weeks, he could be the piece that puts the Red Raiders over the top and finally unlocks the offensive side of the ball for this program.