BLOOMINGTON — Justin Walker has been an assistant coach at the high school and college levels, as well as heavily involved in player development with an AAU program.
He has learned a lot, he said, and is eager to share that knowledge as a head coach. The 30-year-old Walker will get the chance at Bloomington High School, which announced Friday the hiring of the former Southern Illinois assistant as head basketball coach.
Walker has been on the staff at SIU since 2014 under former coach Barry Hinson, serving one year as a graduate assistant, two years as Director of Basketball Operations and the past two seasons as a full-time assistant coach. He also will teach physical education at Bloomington.
Walker welcomes the opportunity to “get to use all my past experience and knowledge that I’ve gained from my mentors.”
“I have a huge passion for the game,” he said. “I’m always learning. It’s an everyday thing for me. Being able to apply that and help my staff and certainly the players is something I’m excited about.”
Walker takes over as head coach for Micheal Mosley, who resigned last month after eight seasons with a 142-91 record.
Walker played basketball at Carthage College, graduating in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology and exercise science. He earned his teaching degree in physical education from Eastern Illinois in 2012 and a master's in sports management from Southern Illinois in 2016.
Prior to joining the staff at SIU, he was an assistant coach at his alma mater, Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, and Moraine Valley Community College. He also was Director of Basketball Operations at the Illinois Basketball Academy in Naperville.
“I’m excited to start working with the guys on all levels,” Walker said. “I will tell you that we’re going to guard. We’ll be a defensive oriented team. I believe defense wins championships.
“Offensively, we’re going to try to get out and score quickly. We’ll try to get stops and lead us into transition and score in transition. I want the guys to have some freedom offensively. That doesn’t mean shooting terrible shots. But I think if they have a little freedom it means a lot.”
Walker plans to hit the ground running in summer workouts, which begin in June.
“I think one thing I can help these guys tremendously with in the summer is skill development,” he said. “That’s very important, probably more than Xs and Os coming into June when I can start working with the guys. There will be a lot of skill development oriented workouts.”
Walker looks forward to being on the BHS teaching staff and having a presence in the building.
“I think the more time I can be around the student athletes the better to make sure they’re on track academically and as a whole,” he said. “I just want to lead these guys and be a positive example for them.
“It’s a well-respected high school. The administration has been awesome, getting to know the athletic director, Tony (Bauman), and Principal (Tim) Moore. I feel like there’s a lot of talent goes through that area. I just think it’s a great opportunity to continue to build that program to the upper echelon in the state.”
Bauman said Walker “brings a wealth of basketball knowledge and experience that will be invaluable to our program and our student-athletes."
"I believe his leadership and his vision will continue to build on and grow excitement throughout and around our basketball program," Bauman added.
Walker comes from a basketball family. He said he has "five beautiful sisters" and that "all played (basketball) but one." His youngest sister, Jnaya Walker, recently signed with Central Florida as a transfer from Illinois.