BROOKLYN, N.Y. – The Barclays Center may have been practically empty when he stepped on the court, but for Loyola-Maryland freshman Andre Walker, none of that mattered; he was back home.
The Greyhounds starting point guard played his high school ball just 20 minutes away at Christ the King High School, which he led to a second straight New York State Federation Tournament of Champions title, earning the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
Fast forward to present day. Sunday’s big 61-59 overtime win against Fairfield wasn’t Walker’s first time back in the “Big Apple” while donning a Greyhounds jersey: just a few weeks before, he found himself on the Upper West Side at Levien Gymnasium. Both times he’s returned “home” Walker has played a big role in helping the Greyhounds score a dramatic win.
“Every team wants to protect their home court,” said Walker. “And I feel like it’s my home court whenever I’m in New York, so I just see it as that way. It’s my house.”
In his seventh collegiate game, facing off against the Lions, Walker dropped 14 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out two assists. On Sunday night against the Stags, Walker was even bigger, scoring 14 points, grabbing nine rebounds, swiping five steals and dishing out a pair of assists.
“Andre’s great,” said Loyola head coach G.G. Smith. “He’s a kid from right around this area. He has that New York swag.”
Smith does not joke around when he talks about Walker’s “swag.” Though he grew up right outside of the city in Long Island’s Nassau County, Walker went to school in NYC, and listening to him talk is nearly identical to famous New York City rapper Mase.
“[I] had a lot of fans there cheering me on, so I wanted to make them happy,” said Walker.
Walker’s passion showed on the court on Sunday afternoon against his team’s former MAAC foe, Fairfield.
“I looked to attack. I knew their bigs were in foul trouble so I wanted to try and get them out of the game, but they didn’t foul,” said Walker.
However, at times, Walker and his attack mentality led to him being a bit overzealous, which resulted in six turnovers. Despite the turnovers, Walker did not keep his head down, and tried to rectify the lost possessions on the defensive end.
“I just tried to cause mayhem, create turnovers,” said Walker. “During the first half, they were too in rhythm, they were settling and had time to run their plays, so I had to force them to turn the ball over.”
It is still early in Walker’s career, but Smith feels like his tough New Yorker is going to be a mainstay for the Greyhounds.
“He plays extremely hard, he’s a typical New York kid,” said Smith. “Once he gets control, gets a feel, and has confidence in running the show, he’ll be a great player for us in the future.”
For his part, Walker knows he is just starting his career, and although he already has a large role for a freshman, he looks to keep working at getting better and grow into an even larger role.
“Being patient, growing as a leader, and taking my time,” said Walker when asked what he needs to work on. “Sometimes I rush a lot; when you’re rushing it’s a bad thing in college, as I’m learning now. Being patient is a big key for me. Once I become patient, I’ll be at the next level.”
Eleven games into the season, Andre Walker has shown flashes that could very well land him on the Patriot League All-Rookie team in March, and that this new era of Loyola-Maryland basketball has a bright future.
Walker and the Greyhounds will kickoff league play on the road at Navy on Wednesday afternoon.