Former Terps forward Shane Walker hitting his stride at Loyola

Junior leads Greyhounds in scoring, second on team in rebounds

February 28, 2011|By Jon Meoli, The Baltimore Sun

Loyola forward Shane Walker had a tough decision to make when he left Maryland after his freshman season.

Walker played for two high schools in Virginia after moving from Southampton, England, in 2005, and faced with yet another change of scenery, the 6-foot-10 forward set out to find a place where he would find comfort and stability.

If his numbers are any indication, Walker has found his comfort zone this season. The third-team All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference junior leads the Greyhounds with 11 points per game and has scored in double figures in 14 games. He's second on the team with 7.2 rebounds per game.

Greyhounds coach Jimmy Patsos says that in Walker's transition from being "Shane Walker from Maryland" to "Shane Walker of Loyola," he has become a much different player.

Patsos saw evidence of Walker's maturity in Friday's 75-63 win at Niagara. Despite early foul trouble, Walker stayed focused and helped close the game with nine second-half points. He finished with 11 points in just 15 minutes.

"Instead of being mad he was in foul trouble, he did all he could," Patsos said. "He was happy we won. He wasn't worried about individual performance at all. That's where he's growing up."

Since arriving, Walker has developed in other ways as well. Despite not being fully recovered from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Walker logged more than 29 minutes per game last season, scoring 8.6 points and grabbing a team-high 6.6 rebounds per game.

Perhaps more importantly, he learned the system and acclimated himself to playing big minutes in the MAAC last season. This year, the Greyhounds have needed every bit of experience the now-healthy Walker has given them.

The long-term absences of forwards Anthony Winbush and Julius Brooks have left Walker and 6-foot-7 sophomore Erik Etherly to play the bulk of the minutes down low.

Walker's ability to make jump shots creates mismatches that he and Etherly regularly exploit.

"It makes it a lot easier on both of us that he can shoot," said Etherly, the team's leading rebounder. "They feel uncomfortable when he takes the ball out on the wing."

Knowing his tendency to play on the wing, opponents put smaller, quicker defenders on Walker, who then uses his size as an advantage in the paint.

Though he has more freedom to play his game at Loyola, Walker says the experience at Maryland was good. He remains friends with former teammates Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie.

But when it came time to part ways with the Terps, it was Patsos -- who established himself as a top recruiter while serving as an assistant to Gary Williams at Maryland -- who sold Walker on Loyola.

"The decision [to leave] was one that I needed to make, but I feel like I made the right decision coming here," Walker said.

Walker said Patsos, who has brought former Terps Andre Collins and Hassan Fofana to Loyola since taking over a 1-27 squad in 2004, made him feel the most comfortable throughout the recruiting process in the spring of 2008.

"He called me on a consistent basis, so my loyalty lays with him," Walker said of his coach.

Walker still has plenty of time left with Patsos at Loyola, including Saturday at 2:30 p.m. when the Greyhounds take on Saint Peter's in the MAAC tournament. But he also has an eye on the 2012 London Olympics.

Ron Wuotila of British Basketball said Walker is one of many players on its radar for the under-23 team, a "futures" squad used to evaluate prospects for the Senior National Team. Walker will be evaluated with that group in June, and is optimistic about his chances for next summer's Games.

"They said I'm having a good year," Walker said. "I definitely have a good shot" at playing in 2012.

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