Bronx Rides Walker's Win

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    You might have thought the Bronx had a team in last night's NCAA championship by the way the borough was glued to the game, but it was all in support of one of their own -- UConn's Kemba Walker.

    Loved ones, friends and fans gathered to cheer Walker as the point guard led his team to the win, 53-41.

    Despite the low-scoring, sometimes-sloppy game, fans in the Bronx praised the 6-foot-1-inch Walker, who grew up in the Sack-Wern housing projects in the Soundview neighborhood.

    Jason Fisher, 24, who played ball with Walker at IS 174, told the Daily News what elevated Walker to All-American status.

    'It's spirit and hard work," he said. "It's something we all dreamed about when we were playing way back in the third grade. It's a dream that came through for Kemba, and I'm really happy for him."

    Walker's buddies in the Bronx used to call him "E-Z Pass" because no one could stop him.

    While attending Rice High School in Harlem, Walker played ball on weekends for the prestigious amateur team, the New York Gauchos.

    "I remember Kemba just being a very humble kid, easygoing...but when he got on the court, he turned into a ferocious basketball player," said Rocky Bucano, vice-president of  the Teamwork Foundation, which runs the Gauchos.

    The Gauchos have played at a gym on Gerard Avenue for 25 years. Among the basketball greats who've also shot hoops there: Stephon Marbury, Mark Jackson, John Salley, Jamal Mashburn, and Chris Mullen, who was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame today.

    Bucano says the inner city kids who come from across the tri-state area to play with the Gauchos do so to "get a chance to release their inhibitions, their anxieties."

    Kemba is now 20 years old and a junior at UConn. After last night's NCAA championship game, he's projected to be a top-10 lottery pick in the NBA draft this June.