By Jamie Thomas
His presence has been sorely missed in the league as he’s battled significant injuries, but this coming season will see Mo Walker back and hopefully as healthy as ever as the Riders star looks to make a statement in his full return.
Riders fans have been treated to some fantastic showings from their man in pre-season, but as the competitive action nears, the 29-year-old Center admits he is anxious to take to the floor in anger once more.
“My biggest goal is just to stay healthy, and then anything else for me in terms of statistics or helping the team win however I can will just come from that.”
“I’m anxious to be back out there for sure. I’ve worked hard on my game and developed some different looks. My shooting touch is a lot better, I’m more confident putting the ball on the floor now, but I’ll still be going strong with my back to basket and I’m excited to show what I can do when I get back out there.
“I’m super excited for everything about this season. Last year was so tough, and shorter for me with my injury, so I’m looking forward to a full season on the court with a great group of guys and contributing to another successful year hopefully.
“I’m expecting us to do well and compete for more titles.”
Once again the Riders have done extremely well to return a large proportion of their title-winning roster from the previous year, but with Walker returning to full health and some exciting additions elsewhere, including the retention of 2020/21 MVP Geno Crandall, the talented big man feels the sky is the limit in terms of the team’s potential for the coming year.
“The potential of this team is through the roof, I think, and I personally have expectations for us to achieve at least as much as we did last year, and hopefully even more. We won the regular season outright, so I’m expecting us to do well and compete for more titles.
“This is a squad full of good guys – Coach does a brilliant job of not just finding good players all the time but good people as well. The chemistry and vibe between us is always positive and uplifting. I was rooting for them every second of last season, and excited to play my part on the court this season.
“I watched Geno a lot last year and he was so exciting to see on the court, and I’m looking forward to linking up with him on the court more this season. He’s a great, all-round player on both ends of the floor and has all the tools, with great leadership qualities. I feel like we have a great connection, and we only played once or twice together last year really, so a full season could be very fun!”
“He’s just another guy we want to beat when we’re on the court.”
As well as being excited to be back out on the court with new and former teammates, competing against familiar faces is at the top of the list of things Walker is looking forward to this term.
The likes of Corey Johnson and Jamell Anderson are set to line up opposite the 29-year-old in the coming season for the Newcastle Eagles and Manchester Giants respectively, and the center spoke on what he expects those encounters to be like.
“I’m not only excited to play with the guys on my team, but I’m really looking forward to playing against some of these guys in the league as well.
“Corey Johnson was on our team last season and has now obviously gone to Newcastle, I played with Isaiah Reese over the summer who is now in London, Jamell Anderson is now in Manchester, so I’m excited to compete against them and talk some smack to these guys!
“Newcastle is always the match-up I look forward to the most. Coming up against Rahmon Fletcher, and now Corey too, Newcastle are always the match-up I look forward to the most. There’ll be a lot of positive and negative emotions coming up against Corey, because he’s a great guy and we’re friends, but he’s just another guy we want to beat when we’re on the court, so it’ll be interesting.”
“Guys want to be where they’re wanted.”
Signing another two-year deal with the club, it is clear the faith and support the Riders have for their star center, and Walker’s gratitude is significant as he discussed the bond he has with Head Coach Rob Paternostro and the power of the positive atmosphere that has been fostered at the club.
“You’ve got to ask Coach how he keeps doing this, I don’t know how he does it but he has a fantastic ability for bringing in the right people. The atmosphere is perfect here, everybody wants each other to succeed and there’s a great family feel here.
“We care about each other more than just on the court, and you can turn to Coach or any of the staff for anything, and I think the positive atmosphere where we’re all so concerned for each other’s wellbeing is so important to our success.
“It helped me so much last year to be around that, because going through my surgery was so tough, but having this family here backing me no matter what really encouraged me to push through and bounce back. Guys want to be where they’re wanted, and that culture here certainly is key to keeping players for so long, so it feels so good to be a part of it.”