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New Pacers forward Jarace Walker was ‘the guy we wanted all along’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Pacers introduced two of their newest players on Friday afternoon at the team’s training facility.

The NBA draft’s eighth overall pick, forward Jarace Walker, and the draft’s 26th overall pick, guard Ben Sheppard, arrived to Indianapolis on Friday and were welcomed to the franchise during a press conference in front of members of the organization and the media.

“Going in (to the draft), we had a couple guys targeted,” said Pacers General Manager Chad Buchanan. “And it’s very rare you get everybody you target. But these were two guys who were very, very high on our list.”

Walker was selected by the Washington Wizards with the eighth overall pick, but the Pacers and Wizards had agreed to a trade sending Walker to Indy and the Pacers’ seventh overall pick, forward Bilal Coulibaly, to Washington.

The Pacers reportedly also received two 2028 second-round draft picks as part of the trade.

“It’s awesome,” Walker said. “It’s everything I dreamed of just getting to this moment. And then, just not getting here, but finding the perfect organization, perfect city, awesome fan base. So, it was a dream come true.”

Walker averaged 11.2 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game last season as a member of the University of Houston men’s basketball program. He was named the AAC Rookie of the Year.

“Jarace was the guy we wanted all along after going through the draft process,” Buchanan said. 

Meanwhile, Sheppard averaged 18.8 points per game during his senior season at Belmont. Sheppard told News 8 Sports’ Andrew Chernoff that he’s excited to be a member of the Pacers organization because of how the franchise is building for the future.

“Just the young core,” Sheppard said. “And how promising it’s looking. (I) feel like there’s a lot of good things going on here and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Walker will wear the No. 1 jersey and Sheppard will wear the No. 26 jersey with the Pacers.