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    Darrell Walker Reenergizes Basketball Program at Clark Atlanta University Using NBA Experience 

    Clark Atlanta University Head Coach Darrell Walker against the Boston Celtics. Walker played with the New York Knicks from 1983-1986

     

    Words: Craig Allen Brown

    Images: Darrell Walker | CAU Athletics

     

    Former NBA player and coach Darrell Walker is using his experiences and compassion to significantly alter the lives of student-athletes at Clark Atlanta University.  His men’s basketball team is undergoing significant growth, in the classroom and on the hardwood.

     

    Darrell Walker excelled at basketball at the collegiate level under College Hall of Fame coach Eddie Sutton.  He twice led the University of Arkansas to the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA tournament.  In his last year as a Razorback, Walker averaged 18.2 point and 5.7 rebounds, and was selected as both the Southwest Conference’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.  His play resulted in his selection as a first round pick of the New York Knicks. 

     

    Walker began coaching after a 10-year NBA career as a player, which culminated in an NBA championship alongside Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in 1993.  He served as a head coach for both the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards before going on to assistant coaching positions with the New Orleans Hornets, Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks.

     

    It was during these years as an assistant that Walker developed a desire to coach at the college level.  Along with being involved with the sport that he loved, Walker eagerly anticipated the opportunity to assist young men in achieving their college degrees.  Clark Atlanta University Athletic Director Lin Dawson valued the experience that Walker bought to the table as both an NBA player and coach, and subsequently offered him the men’s head coach position.

     

     

    Upon being hired, Walker immediately changed the face of the program.  Prior to his arrival, the CAU Panthers only managed nine wins throughout the 2015-2016 season.  However, Walker more than doubled that amount of wins during his first year.  His team finished the season with a seven-game winning streak, resulting in the best overall record in the conference, an SIAC tournament championship, and a berth in the NCAA Division II national tournament, before falling to top-seeded University of Alabama in Huntsville.

     

    Walker not only changed operations on the basketball court; he changed the way in which his players pursued their educations.  He randomly visits his players’ classes to ensure that they are attending regularly; disciplinary action is taken if a student-athlete is not present.  He also implemented an annual art auction, where he donates pieces from his own personal collection for auction-goers to bid on.  Funds raised during the auction are used to pay for summer school, to ensure his players graduate on time.

    Walker’s second year at the helm has proven to be even more fulfilling than his first.  After 19 games, the Clark Atlanta University Panthers are 18-1, and ranked #22 among Division II schools nationally.  The team is undefeated in conference and division play, and ranks in the top three in several conference statistical categories, including scoring offense, scoring defense, turnover margin and scoring margin.

     

    Despite all the success he has achieved on the court, Walker is most proud of his influence off of it.  “When you get a kid to come play for you, it’s important that they leave with a degree,” he said. 

     

    About Craig Allen Brown, Contributing Sports Writer 

    Craig Allen Brown was born in Ramstein, Germany. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Personnel Actions Specialist.  He served for 22 years, retiring in 2014.  Upon retirement, he enrolled at Clark Atlanta University, majoring in Mass Media Arts.  He will graduate with honors in May 2018.

    Twitter: @CraigAllen_21

    Instagram: @craigallen_21

     

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