Will Walker Assumes Leadership Role at DePaul

While sensational sophomore Dar Tucker grabs all the headlines for DePaul for his explosive athleticism and scoring, it is the calming influence and leadership of junior guard Will Walker that may prove to be the backbone of the DePaul Blue Demons basketball team this year.

That statement was never more true than after DePaul's season opening victory over Albany on Monday night. When DePaul saw its sizable margin trimmed to threatening levels, it was Walker who stepped up and made sure DePaul would not crumble. His defense (three steals) led to easy baskets and his timely scoring (he scored 19 points - second only to Tucker's 23 points) and drives to the basket made the difference in the 75-64 victory.

"I thought Will Walker was really composed," said DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright after Monday's win. "He put his head down and really got to the basket when we needed him. He had a couple of big steals. I thought Will really stepped up as a leader."

Indeed. Walker, who was Wainwright's first ever recruit, has taken the leadership mantra to heart. Walker has had his ups and downs in his DePaul career and he is ready to take the next step.

"(The experience) has made me a much better player," said Walker as he explained his transformation as a meek, timid freshman to a calm and composed junior. "My freshman year I was thinking a lot. I was worried about what coach might think. Now with the confidence I have gotten from last year, I feel like I can go out and play and just cut loose. That makes it easier to be a leader"

With so many freshmen and sophomores on DePaul's team, it's a must that Walker step up. In Walker's mind there is no doubt that he is ready to assume that role.

"(I want to be a leader), be a general, I like that role," Walker confessed. "I know what needs to be done. I think the whole team respects me and I'm a guy they could look up to."

Walker made a huge leap from his freshman year to his sophomore campaign. In his freshman year Walker averaged a meager 3.3 ppg in only 14.3 minutes a game. Walker, who is known to be a good shooter, only connected on 22.6 percent from three point range in his rookie campaign. But in his sophomore campaign, Walker raised his scoring average to 9.6 ppg and nearly doubled his production behind the three point line to the clip of 43.6 percent. He was often looked upon to score down the stretch and delivered.

Walker is not one to rest on his laurels and is ready to take his game to the next level. Will worked really hard in the off-season to get physically and emotionally ready for the season ahead.

"I have been working on leading the team, making sure the young guys aren't worried about making mistakes and more worried about keep playing hard," explained Walker.

He said he has been working really hard with new DePaul Strength and Conditioning Coach Bryce Karasiak to make sure his body can hold up to the rigors of the grueling Big East.

"He's (Karasiak) been working us out real well," Walker said. "Everybody has been getting much bigger. I think you got a fast team when the bigs are running with the guards."

Walker, who stands at just about six feet, is more of a two guard than a natural point, but with two freshmen (Mike Bizoukas and Jeremiah Kelly) vying for playing time at point, Walker knows he has to have the ball in his hands and is comfortable at running the point if need be.

"I can see myself playing a lot of point guard," Walker said without hesitation. "Coach told me already if I get a rebound he wants me to bring it up and get out on the break."

Walker, speaking like a true veteran, said that while DePaul was picked to finish 15th in the rough and tough Big East they haven't earned their place yet. However, the preseason predictions do motivate Walker.

"There is always motivation when they pick you at the bottom," Walker commented. "I'd rather be picked down there than up high, because it makes you work harder."

Plain and simple Walker is a warrior and while he has his limitations (some doubted he had the physical attributes and size to play in the Big East) he has defied his critics with his gritty and gutsy play. With two years under his belt and two more to go, Walker is ready to lead and make his mark with this program.

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