Player Preview: Andre Walker

Andre Walker comes to Xavier along the familiar "incoming transfer" path trodden by such past Muskie favorites as CJ Anderson, Jamel McLean, Jordan Crawford, Brian Thorton, and numerous others. That path has led to success for X in the past, but Walker's circumstances as a little bit different than the others. The first and most obvious difference is that he comes in immediately eligible. A quirk in the NCAA by-laws dictates that an athlete who has already graduated but retains athletic eligibility can transfer schools without having to sit out a season. This is presumably left over from the days when the "student" portion of "student-athlete" was taken a little more seriously, but it serves its purpose for Walker and Xavier.
 
The other noteworthy factor of Walker's arrival is that he brings with him a meaningful injury history. Coming off his successful high school career (he holds the Illinois record for points in a half!), he had his season at prep school truncated by a foot injury. Once he landed at Vandy, he was unable to build on his freshman season because of a torn ACL suffered 71 minutes into his sophomore year. After a good redshirt sophomore year, Walker battled injuries all last season, never getting into a rhythm on his way to posting a 3/3/2.6 line.

When he is healthy, Walker is a versatile player whose skills allow him to stuff a box score. He posted five or more assists on six occasions as a sophomore, and had four double-digit scoring games and four double-digit rebounding games that year. Before injuries beset him last year, he posted four or more assists in four of his first eight games. More impressive - and more important - than the stats themselves is that Walker can switch between skill sets depending on what the team needs, filling it up some nights, clearing the glass on others, distributing the ball on others. With Xavier having lost noted glue guys Jamel McLean and Dante Jackson - two guys who could impact the game despite not having their numbers called on the offensive end - someone who can fill in whatever gaps exist on a given night is what this talented Muskie squad needs.
 
Best case:
Walker stays healthy and flashes the talent that has too long been confined to the training room. With plenty of talented players around him, he picks up the slack for whoever is underperforming in any given game. Falling between the departed Jackson and McLean in size (6'7", 220), he can guard four positions on the defensive end and frees Coach Mack up to be creative with the other four guys on the floor. He occasionally has a game where he pours in buckets, but he mostly provides the mortar to hold together Xavier's talented squad.
 
Worst case: An ACL tear is no laughing matter, and it's not the only injury of Walker's career. Plagued by the same fragility that beset him last season, Walker can never find enough consistent court time to work his way into a role for Xavier. When he is out there, the frustration of spending most of the year rehabbing - again - catches up to him, and he tries to do too much and ends up disrupting the flow of the game for the Muskies. All Walker gets out of the season is a year older, while Travis Taylor runs away with the title of Everyone's New Favorite Transfer.
 
Most likely: Health is always a big wild card, especially with guy who God hasn't blessed with a durable body. Walker's track record suggests that he's not going to spring to life for 30-35 games for X, but there's no reason to anticipate he can't be a valuable piece for the Muskies. Coming into a team with at least five guys capable of and/or with experience in being the primary scorer, someone is going to have to step up and do the dirty work. It's more than likely that Andre Walker establishes himself as exactly that guy. If he doesn't get starts, look for him to be the first guy off the bench to whom Coach Mack turns.

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