With the proliferation of transfers in the new era of college basketball, it’s easier than ever for a program to have one of its greats start at another school. (Note: We covered this topic here last March.) But for a program with the stature of Kansas, there have been shockingly few incoming transfers, especially in the 1980’s and 90’s- Greg Dreiling, Lester Earl, Jerod Haase, and Luke Axtel are among the most notable- and none of those players had the impact that Rex Walters, a transfer from Northwestern, had in his years in a Jayhawk uniform.
Walters played two seasons in Chicago, and after a brilliant sophomore campaign for the Wildcats (17.6 PPG and a blistering 47% from three on 112 attempts), his stock was never going to be higher. Walters, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, played his remaining two years at Kansas after sitting out the 1990-91 season, but he had an instant impact once he finally hit the court as a Jayhawk.
Walters was immediately inserted into the Jayhawk starting five for his junior season, and he repaid head coach Roy Williams by pouring in an average of 16 points and 3.9 assists per contest. KU won the Big Eight by three games that season, compiling an 11-3 conference record. That team also swept through the conference tournament in Kansas City’s Kemper Arena. They earned a number one seed in the NCAA tourney but failed to impress, falling in the second round to Texas-El Paso. Walters had his first taste of post season action, but his next would be a much more rousing success.
The 1992-93 season again saw Rex Walters as the star of the Kansas Jayhawks. He averaged 15.3 points and better than four assists per contest. The 1993 team went all the way to the Final Four and Rex put in some memorable performances. He scored 23 in the first round against Ball State, 28 in a second round win against BYU, and his play against California in the regional semi-finals was a key to KU advancing. Walters scored a game high 24 points against the Bears, including a four of four performance from beyond the three point arc. He scored 19 in the Final Four loss to North Carolina.
Over his entire NCAA tournament career (seven games), Walters averaged exactly 20 points per game. Not bad.
Walters was then drafted into the NBA in 1993 by the New Jersey Nets* with the sixteenth overall pick. Walters also spent time with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat during his seven year NBA career. He averaged 4.6 points per game over his career while making 37% of the three point attempts. Walters went on to play in Spain for a few years with Leon and Gran Canaria.
*Your humble Rock Chalk Talk writer purchased a Nets hat shortly after draft day in 1993 and they became my favorite NBA team while Walters plied his trade in New Jersey.
Upon returning to the United States, Walters got into the coaching game. He started in the high school ranks at Blue Valley Northwest in suburban Kansas City. He then moved on to an assistant position at Valparaiso in 2003. After that, Walters got his first head coaching gig at Florida Atlantic. He did well enough there for two years that he eventually parlayed that job into the head coaching position at San Francisco where he has been since 2008.