Oklahoma needed a back-up point guard, and that’s why Dinjiyl Walker was brought to Norman from Iowa Western Community College.
He just didn’t exactly fit what Kruger wanted, no matter how much the coach hoped he would.
“We were hopeful that he’d be more comfortable at the point, but he’s clearly more comfortable at the off, which is what he’s done all his life,” Kruger said. “In fairness to him, we were trying to force it a little bit early on.”
Walker is an attacking point guard with the ability to finish in the lane despite being just taller than 6-foot. He didn’t fit the distributor role that Kruger had envisioned.
Now that he’s not there, he has a better chance to round off those edges and eventually fit into Kruger’s round hole.
“The way Coach Kruger coaches, he wants his point guards to run the team,” Walker said. “I’m not saying I can’t do that, but it’s definitely a change from when I was a scoring point guard. . . . Coach Kruger has a different approach to point guard. It’s not the same as how I was thinking about it.”
Walker is no longer playing point guard for the Sooners. He’s the third option, but thanks to the development of Isaiah Cousins as an all-around player, Walker can move to the off guard, where he can focus on his fast-break offense and defense.
He’s back where he feels comfortable, and it’s helping his offense and the Sooners.
“I didn’t want to come in and think it was just about me and try to do stuff that wasn’t meant for me,” Walker said of not stepping on anyone’s toes. “Now after a semester, it took me quite a while to find out what I’m supposed to do. . . I’m starting to get a better feel for it. I can definitely be impactful now.”
Walker is providing the one thing lacking from the Sooners – an adequate bench scorer. He had 10 points off the bench against Texas and against Weber State. It was his offense off the bench that helped Oklahoma (11-3) keep pace with Wisconsin in the Battle 4 Atlantis Championship game.
He finished that game with 10 points.
“Some games he doesn’t score as much as he wants to,” Oklahoma forward TaShawn Thomas. “I was just telling him, ‘Your time is coming. There’s going to be a time when we really need you.’ (Monday) night, he stepped up.”
Forced into a position and overshadowed by his roommate and fellow transfer, Thomas, it has taken Walker a while to get acclimated to life with Oklahoma.
The two sat down in the summer and had a heart-to-heart talk, trying to figure out how to fit in with a team with four returning starters.
That worry kept both from stepping in right away and making a splash.
“We were trying to fit in where we could help the team the best,” Walker said. “So we didn’t want to go in and try to change the team. We wanted to make it better in a different way.”
For the past five games, Walker hasn’t had to worry about running the team. Cousins has taken care of that, partially by dribbling less. Walker has had to worry about so much less as well.
“It freed me up a lot to be more of a scorer, have a scorer’s mentality,” Walker said. “Coming from junior college, I usually had a lot of plays called for me. I’m used to finding ways to score the basketball.”