Oakland’s Martez Walker embracing leadership role after troubled past at Texas

first_imgOn Nov. 13, Martez Walker danced on New Orleans all across the stained black court at Athletics Center O’rena. He dropped a team-high 27 points on 13 shots and drained a career-high six 3s. But his shot-making wasn’t what stood out to Oakland head coach Greg Kampe. It was Walker’s newfound maturity and ability to lead that impressed Kampe.“He’s really matured,” Kampe said. “He’s taking everything seriously. He’s turned into a real vocal leader.”Walker will look to lead the Golden Grizzlies (2-1) past Syracuse (3-0) when the two teams face off in the Carrier Dome on Monday. The redshirt senior is more outspoken on the court and has put more focus on the team’s success than his own this season, something that hasn’t always been the case. The Detroit native began his collegiate career at Texas, but was dismissed from the team in 2014 after being charged for misdemeanor assault and trespassing.Walker was arrested on Sept. 11 of that year, according to media reports, after assaulting his then-girlfriend in a dorm room, punching her four times in the ribs and dragging her out of the room, resulting in an indefinite suspension installed by then-Texas head coach Rick Barnes and an order to stay off campus. A week later, Walker returned to his dorm to gather his belongings, and was charged with criminal trespassing.Walker needed to find a new school but it was difficult to find a coach who wanted him, he said. Kampe, who is in his 34th season at Oakland, first saw Walker play when he was in a freshman at Pershing (Michigan) High School and liked his game.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I just remember him sitting there and giving me that ‘I want you to be in my program’ look,” Walker said.Three years later, Kampe recruited Walker heavily, but lost out to Barnes and Texas. Kampe kept an eye on Walker and, when the former three-star recruit needed a new home, he gave him a call. Kampe was a fan of Walker’s basketball ability, but the reason he wanted him at Oakland was to help right the path of a kid he grew attached to during the recruiting process, he said.Kampe assured Walker he had a place on his team, on one condition: the university would only allow him to play if he paid his own tuition. It was harsh news for Walker. He didn’t know it would end up as a turning point in his personal life and basketball career.“I was on scholarship all my life, so having to do that was a big transition,” Walker said. “It made me learn my lesson.”When Walker first got to Oakland, he didn’t instantly acclimate with the rest of the team. He had a strong foundation with Kampe, but teammates weren’t familiar with his game or personality. They just knew about his past.“It was a learning experience, it took some time for him to gel into the program,” Jalen Hayes said. “With time he got better and better at it.”Walker didn’t play for the Golden Grizzlies until December 2015, due to the mandatory year of ineligibility attached to transferring. During his time off, Walker paid for private anger management classes. Kampe and his teammates gradually began to see results.On Dec. 19 of that year, Walker debuted in a 97-83 win over Washington, starting the game and pouring in 18 points during 23 minutes. The redshirt sophomore played in every game for the rest of the season before his team was eliminated by Old Dominion in the Vegas 16 Tournament final in March 2016. The following year, Walker was the main scorer with the departure of point guard Kay Felder, who’s now with the Chicago Bulls. That year, Walker averaged a team-high 17.8 points, but more importantly showed his capability in leading a team.Toward the end of the season, Walker emerged as one of the more outspoken players on the team and was starting to hold himself and his teammates accountable for poor shot selections and defensive lapses. To Kampe, it was clear that Walker’s reactions to poorly executed plays showed he was more concerned about the team’s success than his own.In the first two games of this season, Walker’s vocal presence on the court has only gotten better, Kampe said. Hayes, his teammate of three years, has noticed a big difference in his on-court presence and relationship with his teammates.Three years ago, Walker was backed into a corner. His desire to turn his life around has brought him to where he is now — the primary offensive weapon and leader on a team with intentions to make the NCAA Tournament.“When he first got here, his world was about him,” Kampe said. “Now, his world is about winning, playing, and becoming the best person he can become.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 20, 2017 at 12:27 am Contact David: [email protected]last_img

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