By Joseph Staszewski
Erving Walker is hoping he isn’t done with the NBA.
The former Christ the King and University of Florida basketball star is looking for a second chance at playing in the league after spending last season overseas. The Phoenix Suns did not pick him up after a strong showing with them in the NBA Summer League last season, where he averaged 5.0 points per game.
Walker said the former Suns staff told him there was a place in the league for him, just not with Phoenix. He was left to travel to Italy and play for Prima Veroli, for whom he averaged 18 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Walker felt he learned from the experience and was encouraged to play the game in the way he is comfortable.
“I think I did well,” Walker said. “I was passing a lot, trying to be a true point guard. The coaches were like, ‘We know what you can do. We want you to be aggressive, be yourself.’”
It won’t be an easy climb back. Walker has not received an invite to play in this year’s summer league, which could mean he will have to head overseas for a second straight year after playing across the New York City streetball circuit this summer, including playing with the Queens-based DDN/Sean Bell at the Hoops in the Sun tournament in the Bronx.
The 5-foot-8 point guard has been doubted multiple times through his career, particularly because of his height. He was never guaranteed playing time in high school at Christ the King and many wondered if he would ever see the floor at Florida, where he ended up leading as the school’s all-time leader in assists (547) and fourth on its all-time leading scorer list with 1,777 points. Walker’s play led him to get more time on the court than some teammates, and highly recruited guard Jai Lucas transferred to Texas after just one season.
“He’s always proved the doubters wrong,” Sean Bell Coach Rah Wiggins said.
In his mind, what makes Walker special is he is a winning player who can adapt to a time or style. Walker can score and play up-tempo or be a pass-first point guard in a more structured system like the one he ran with Prima Veroli.
“Not to say that the U.S. is unorganized, but it’s more of a half-court game over there, less fast breaking,” Walker said. “My [Prima Veroli] coach tried to use my speed to my advantage. He let me get up and down because, no disrespect to Italians, but they are a little slower.”
He is quick to pick things up and never afraid to do the little things to win. His commitment to defense this summer has really impressed Wiggins so far, but it’s nothing he wouldn’t expect from Erving. He won a city title at Christ the King and took Florida to two Elite Eights.
“He’s just a winner,” Wiggins said. “He does whatever it takes to win. He will make the right steal, play defense.”
Walker is happy to see the Christ the King program getting back to its winning ways. The Middle Village school won its second state Federation Class AA title in the last three years. In his mind it’s right where the Royals belong.
“Christ the King always had a winning program,” Walker said. “That’s what we are use to, winning. Bob Oliva brought in good players and had a good system and Joe Arbitello kept it going.”
Walker wants to keep his winning ways going at the next level in the NBA. All he can do now it keep and improving and keep waiting.
“All he has to do is stay in the gym and keep working hard,” Wiggins said. “Maybe his number is going to get called.”