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CJ Walker forgoes extra year of eligibility to pursue professional basketball career

The now-former Ohio State point guard isn’t expected to be drafted, but will have plenty of options to continue his professional career.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Ohio State vs Purdue Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s been clear for weeks that Ohio State’s CJ Walker did not plan on returning for a fourth season in Columbus, the now-former Buckeye point guard made his plans official today when he announced that he would be hiring an agent and forgoing his extra year of eligibility.

The NCAA decided before last season began that all players would be given an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-related abnormalities this season brought, so Walker could have returned if he wanted. However, Walker has been in college for five years (two at Florida State and three at Ohio State) and has a young daughter back home. His odds of being drafted are slim to none, but Walker will have plenty of chances to play overseas or potentially latch on with a G-League affiliate of an NBA team.

Walker averaged 9.1 points, 3.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per contest in 58 games for Ohio State during his two seasons. He was the quarterback of Ohio State’s fourth-rated offense (according to KemPom), providing a calm, veteran presence to for a Buckeye team that was a bit short on guards. He scored in double digits in 10 of his final 12 games donning the scarlet and gray, and was the third-best free throw shooter in the nation this past season, knocking them down at a clip of 94%.

With Walker gone, point guard duties will shift to former Penn State point guard Jamari Wheeler, who announced his transfer to Ohio State on March 30. Wheeler averaged 6.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game for the Nittany Lions last season, while also registering 1.8 steals per contest. The two-time All-Big Ten defensive team honoree will be a steady ballhandler and “game manager” for the Buckeyes, and will immediately improve their 83rd-ranked defense from last season.

Meechie Johnson will be a sophomore next season and will see an uptick in minutes at guard, as will Jimmy Sotos, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery. Four-star combo guard Malaki Branham will also be involved, although he is more likely to play off the ball, similar to the role Duane Washington Jr. played this past season.

At least a few more Buckeyes will make similar announcements in the coming weeks. Last week, we broke down who might be on their way out and who is without a doubt returning for the 2021-2022 season. You can check that piece out here.