Summer 2024

Toronto Raptors draft Baylor's Ja'Kobe Walter 19th overall in NBA draft: 'All glory to God'

It’s fitting that a man named after Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant would be drafted in the first round of the 2024 NBA Draft, and that’s just what happened on Wednesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The Toronto Raptors selected Ja’Kobe Walter, a 19-year-old out of Baylor, with the 19th overall pick. The 6-foot-5 guard’s first name is a combination of “Jordan” and “Kobe.”

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After NBA Commissioner Adam Silver read that name from the draft podium, Walter took an extra half-second to soak in the realization of his lifelong dream. The tears of joy started to flow. With Baylor head coach Scott Drew by his side, Walter was asked about his emotions by ESPN’s Monica McNutt moments after exiting the stage.

“All glory to God,” Walter said. “He got me here. It’s just been a long journey. My family supported me the whole way, so it’s just a very emotional moment.”

Walter continued to glorify God in his post-draft media availability.

“I prayed so many times for just this moment right here, so now that it’s finally here, it’s just dreams into reality,” Walter said. “And I’m just grateful.”

Despite sporting a purple blazer, one of the colors the Raptors used to wear, Walter insists he didn’t know Toronto would select him.

“I’ve never even been to Canada before,” the McKinney, Texas, native said. “This is gonna be my first time, but I’m just super excited for everything, honestly. I know the fanbase is great, a lot of support. We’re trying to win championships.”

The Raptors posted a record of only 25-57 a year ago. It was a far cry from their heyday from 2014-2020, when the franchise made the playoffs seven straight years, accumulated five straight seasons of at least 50 wins, and captured the 2018-19 NBA title. Walter believes his scoring, defense and on-court energy perfectly compliment the young core of Scottie Barnes, R.J. Barrett, and Immanuel Quickley. Together, they believe they can rebuild the Raptors into NBA contenders once again.

“Just try to make an impact in any way I can,” Walter said Wednesday about his value to the team. “Whatever they need me to do coming in, I’m gonna do it for them. Really just try to bring that winning intensity.”

Walter’s one season at Baylor saw him start all 35 games he played, lead the Bears in points per game (14.5), snag 4.4 rebounds per game, and dish out 1.4 assists per game. The consensus five-star recruit shot 37.6% overall (34.1% on 3-pointers) and 79.2% from the free-throw line. For his efforts, Walter was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year and earned a spot on the All-Big 12 third team as the Bears went 24-11.

Through all of his personal and team success, Walter continues to honor God and point others to Him.

 

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A post shared by Ja’Kobe Walter (@_wubbs)


Walter, who writes “Walking with God” in his Instagram bio, credits his parents for spurring on his faith in Christ since he was a child.

“My parents put me in the church at a young age and have always told me to put God first in anything I do,” Walter told HisHuddle.com before enrolling at Baylor. “Faith has always been important for me since the beginning.”

Walter says he makes sure that he thanks God each day for all He’s done in his life.

“Faith plays a huge role in my career,” he told His Huddle. “Without God, I wouldn’t be in the position I am right now. … God has given me opportunities that I would’ve never thought I would have.”

 

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A post shared by Ja’Kobe Walter (@_wubbs)


In his Instagram announcement that he was declaring for the NBA draft, Walter began by writing, “First, I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because He makes all things possible. He has walked with me all my life to get me where I am now.”

And where he is now is the NBA. As he begins what he hopes is a lengthy career in the league, Walter knows that any success he’ll have is ultimately a gift from his loving Heavenly Father.

The second round of the 2024 NBA Draft is on Thursday (4 p.m. ET). This year marks the first year since 1989, when it was shortened to two rounds, that the NBA draft will be held over multiple days.

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