Healthy Walker ready to shoot Bullets to top
Pertemps Bullets Birmingham's new boy Lee Walker has come a long way from Wales via Tennessee to the Midlands. But after a rookie season where he surprised everyone, not least himself, the young Welshman is determined to keep the ball rolling in his favour.
He may only be 22 years old, but father-of-two Walker is far from being a novice. Following his rookie season with the Thames Valley Tigers, Walker found himself in hot demand, but he modestly declares himself surprised by all the fuss.
"It was flattering to have people interested in me. When I first stepped in at Thames Valley nobody knew who I was. I really didn't think anybody would be that interested in me.
"I chose the Bullets because I liked what they were offering me, plus the coach called me and we had a conversation on the phone. He really went out of his way to recruit me."
Such a personal touch clearly makes all the difference to Lee Walker and as well as his new coach Mike Finger, it is clear that there have been other men who have significantly influenced him. Thames Valley were keen to re-sign Walker and he admits it was hard to leave, particularly after the close coaching relationship he enjoyed with his former mentor Paul James.
"It was a hard decision to leave Thames Valley because I really liked it there. The players were great, but it was especially the two coaches, Mike Hayles and Paul James – they were very good to me.
"Also, Thames Valley were my first top flight team too, so that's special."
Although this is only Walker's second year playing pro basketball in Britain, he boasts some great experiences from his college basketball days in America and reveals that was another place he was loathed to leave.
"I went to High School for three years in Tennessee and then I got recruited by East Tennessee State and I was there for a year. I would have liked to have stayed there longer, but circumstances brought me home."
Walker left after four years to return to his family - something Walker holds very close to his heart. Although, indirectly, it was his family that led to his move across the pond in the first place.
"I first got my interest in basketball when playing at comprehensive school. My brothers were playing and my sister was playing – they played internationally. They introduced me to the game and then I had the chance to go to the States and I took that opportunity. It's what I always wanted.
"The only other thing I was ever really good at was athletics. I used to do karate too – I got as far as a brown belt!"
So, having moved on again to Birmingham – Lee Walker is looking to launch his Bullets career after a tough start to the season, out of action with a mystery skin ailment.
"It has been very difficult sitting out for the first few games and watching everyone else play. I would watch the game and see mistakes made on the court and think 'I would have done this or that!'
"It was especially frustrating because I went to the doctor's and they didn't know what it was and I went to a skin specialist and they didn't know either. It was worrying because they said I couldn't play in case it was something serious. I've had the results back now and it's a condition where the skin swells. There's nothing that can be done about it. I just have to sit and wait for it to clear, which should take a few months. But, it's not stopping me playing anymore."
Despite that initial set back, Walker has since pulled on a Bullets vest and took part in both weekend games, including netting 22 points on Sunday against the Westfield Sharks Sheffield.
"It's great at the Bullets," he continued. "I'm having a good time, because the players are great and we have a good coach and they are really looking after me.
"I'm learning off Nigel [Lloyd] – he coaches me everyday. Then, there are other new guys like Yorick [Williams] and Corey [Jackson] and we've all come from different places and it's interesting how we all fit in.
"Hopefully, as a team, we can win the Championship and the two cups and I think that with the talent, experience and coaching staff, we can do that.!"
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