When Mo Walker walks around campus now, he often hears people call out to him.
Except, they're calling the wrong person.
"People approach me on campus saying ‘Hey Buggs,’" Walker said, referring to teammate Charles Buggs. "I turn around and I’m like ‘I’m not Buggs.’"
A year ago, such a mistake would be unthinkable -- Walker literally had 100 pounds on his much-smaller teammate.
Now, it happens all the time, Walker said. For Buggs' part, he's packed on about 20 pounds of muscle in the weight room over the summer. Walker's transformation, however, has been the most astonishing. The 6-10 center shed 60 pounds by getting in extra workouts daily and paying more attention to his diet.
Suddenly, he and Buggs don't look so different.
"If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be at this weight, I probably would have been like ‘I don’t know about that,’" Walker said. "But I surprised myself."
The absence of all that weight has brought a renewed energy, Walker said, and has relieved his chronic knee troubles, which were a cause of constant before.
"They don't bother me at all anymore," he said.
As such, he's able to be a lot more active under the basket and go for longer stretches.
Still, there is work to be done. Losing 60 pounds is a major achievement in and of itself, but it doesn't necessarily correlate with improvement as a player.
"He deserves all the credit in the world for [losing the weight]," Pitino said. "But with that being said losing all that weight doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a great player. And he’s worked on those things to get better at it. He’s gotten to the point now where he’s in better shape. You see him, when he gets tired, he finishes a little bit better."
With forward Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and Andre Ingram gone from a year ago, Walker's contributions will be hugely important. Pitino said that even in his run-heavy system he hopes that guys like Walker and 6-11 Elliott Eliason will be able to play the entire game if he needs them to.
But as Pitino has often noted, confidence breeds success. And with Walker, the former is clear right now.
"Somebody showed me the other day, the guy is posting pictures with his shirt off on Instagram – that’s a confidence thing," Pitino said. "He feels great about himself every single day. And that’s going to affect his game greatly."
One of the things Pitino still wants Walker to work on is his intensity on the court, commenting that he needs to be "meaner."
Walker is more than willing to work, motivated by the vast improvement he's already seen.
"Every aspect of my game has improved from last year," he said. "Whether it’s rebounding, shooting, even setting screens, things as simple as that."