Not long after the Gophers introduced Richard Pitino as their new men’s basketball coach, rumors began to circulate that an unnamed player intended to seek his scholarship release and transfer to another program.
My gut reaction was, “Wonder where Maurice Walker will end up?”
It didn’t require much deductive reasoning to determine that Big Mo appeared ill-fitted for Pitino’s breakneck brand of basketball. At 310 pounds, Walker looked out of shape manning the low post in Tubby Smith’s plodding offense. How in the world would he ever survive in Pitino’s run-and-gun system? That’s like asking a pontoon to keep pace with speed boats. A change in scenery seemed inevitable.
In a touch of irony, the player who transferred — Joe Coleman — might have been the team’s best athlete. As for Walker, he decided to stick it out and make some life changes.
“Once I heard Pitino, I was really excited,” he said.
And then they met for the first time. Pitino has made Walker’s weight a standard quip in his public speeches, and he didn’t mince words in offering a blunt critique of his 6-10 junior center.
“[He said] it’s going to take a lot of work to get into shape and that I’m a long ways from where I need to be,” Walker said.
He’s still not there yet, but Walker has lost nearly 40 pounds through diet and fitness training. Noticeably slimmer, he hopes to lose an additional 15 to 20 pounds and enter next season around 255.
As someone who showed up on campus as a freshman weighing 340 pounds, Walker believes his career will follow a different arc with these changes to his body.
“Looking back at it now, I should have done this a long time ago,” he said.
A coaching change provided the necessary push, but Walker’s new outlook likely stems from a recognition that he was wasting an opportunity. He was either injured or too overweight to be considered anything but an intriguing unknown his first three years, including a redshirt season. His size became nothing more than a tease because he lacked the quickness and stamina to maintain anything.
Walker ultimately should hold himself accountable because it’s his body and his career. But college athletes need guidance or an occasional kick in the pants, and Smith’s staff failed to push the right buttons to keep Walker’s weight under control.
“I felt comfortable within my body that I could perform well enough,” Walker said. “I thought I could be effective at that weight. I wasn’t really pushed as hard as I should have been.”
He is now. Walker admits being “extremely nervous” before his first individual workout with Pitino this spring. He figured it would be intense with a lot of running. He didn’t guess wrong.
“I was dead tired,” he said.
Once he recovered, he knew he really had only one option if he wanted to stay.
“I need to get in shape,” he told himself. “I’m not going to make it.”
Normally, Walker returns to his Toronto home for a few weeks every summer to visit family and recharge before school starts. He decided to stay on campus this summer to focus on his training.
|Boston||8||Bottom 6th Inning|
|Oklahoma City||56||3rd Qtr 7:17|
|Toronto||1||3rd Prd 13:05|
|Dallas||2||3rd Prd 11:43|
|NY Islanders||2||3rd Prd|
|Vancouver||0||1st Prd 1:16|
|Fla Gulf Coast||62|
|SC State||56||2nd Half 1:10|
|Norfolk State||71||2nd Half 1:50|
|NC A&T||58||2nd Half 1:01|
|Savannah State||34||2nd Half 17:30|
|Southern Miss||49||2nd Half 4:41|
|Marshall||46||2nd Half 3:30|
|Rice||72||2nd Half 0:30|
|South Alabama||57||2nd Half 16:46|
|Alabama State||30||1st Half 3:33|
|Alabama A&M||28||2nd Half|
|Sam Houston St||27||1st Half 2:00|
|Georgia State||33||2nd Half 11:42|
|Central Arkansas||35||2nd Half 13:48|
|Portland State||31||2nd Half 15:22|
|Southern U||27||1st Half 4:22|
|Alcorn State||27||1st Half 1:00|
|Houston Baptist||35||2nd Half 17:20|
|Ark-Little Rock||27||2nd Half|
|SE Louisiana||31||1st Half 3:15|
|California||16||1st Half 7:20|
|Memphis||24||1st Half 3:29|
|VA Commonwealth||15||1st Half 6:20|
|Miss Valley St||0|
|Sacramento St||34||1st Half 1:01|
|Northwestern St||25||1st Half 5:00|
|Stephen F Austin||39|
|North Texas||22||1st Half 2:20|
|Idaho||25||1st Half 3:27|
|Abilene Christian||11||1st Half 11:00|
|Eastern Wash||41||1st Half 0:25|
|Marist||29||1st Half 7:38|
|Eastern Ill||9||1st Half 11:18|
|Bradley||3||1st Half 16:07|
|Cal State Fullerton||9:00 PM|
|Long Beach State|
|UC Riverside||9:00 PM|
|(18) Texas A&M||57|
|East Tenn St||73|
|Sam Houston St||73||FINAL|
|Stephen F Austin||56|
|Miss Valley St||0|
|Georgia Tech||41||2nd Half 15:07|
|(15) North Carolina||50|
|Presbyterian||37||2nd Half 15:02|
|Charlotte||58||2nd Half 5:04|
|Texas-El Paso||55||2nd Half 3:39|
|Wichita State||77||2nd Half 2:22|
|Loyola-Chicago||60||2nd Half 3:01|
|Bradley||60||2nd Half 3:02|
|Vanderbilt||27||2nd Half 18:29|
|Colorado||23||1st Half 6:18|
|San Francisco||34||1st Half 4:26|
|Idaho State||19||1st Half 3:59|
|Weber State||16||1st Half 4:58|
|Purdue||10||1st Half 13:54|
|Cal State Fullerton|
|Long Beach St||9:00 PM|
|UC Santa Barbara|
|UC Davis||9:00 PM|
|Northern Ariz||9:00 PM|
|Southern Utah||9:00 PM|