In the locker room, Mo Walker is often seen laughing or smiling or joking around with his teammates.

He looks like he’s having as much fun on the court as well.

That attitude – combined with the efficiency the redshirt sophomore has contributed early – is just what the Gophers needed, coach Tubby Smith said.

“He really is a charismatic person,” Smith said of Walker. “Not just an excellent basketball player that knows the game, but just a very charismatic person that can keep things light and upbeat, and just very intelligent in the way he conducts himself.”

And on the court, the coach said, Walker has been the biggest surprise on a team that is so far playing very effectively. After sitting out a year and a half following reconstructive knee surgery, Walker has looked solid early on.

Thursday against Tennessee State, the 6-10, 290-poumd forward finished with seven points and six rebounds (including three offensive) and Walker has shown steady improvement statistic-wise in each of the first three games.

But perhaps some of his greatest contributions won’t be seen in a box score. Walker’s ability to be an imposing presence and take up space inside has helped the Gophers as it has forced defenses to collapse and therefore put less pressure on outside shooters.

That only works, of course, if the guys on the perimeter make shots, but given the opportunities lately, the Gophers have been showing improvement.

“I think it’s because our interior has been so impressive,” Smith said. “That’s why were’ shooting it better, I think, and getting open looks.”

Walker has also proven to be a smart passer, even if his passes don’t always show up as assists (he has one on the season).

“It makes all the difference in the world,” Smith said. “He’s not just willing to do it, but able to do it … I’m surprised with Mo because of his challenges and what he had to overcome. I’m more pleased with him than anybody.”

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