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March 11, 2014

Coach reflects on loss, looks forward to next season

COMMERCE — The Texas A&M University-Commerce men’s basketball team may have ended its season with a loss in the Lone Star Conference tournament, but coach Sam Walker said the players he coached this year are winners both on and off the court.

“The reason why these guys are successful is because they follow instructions,” he said, speaking of how, even as a smaller team, the Lions outrebounded all of their opponents in the final six games of the season. “I’ve been very appreciative of my time with them.”

Although the Lions ultimately lost in the LSC tournament to the No. 2 team in the nation, Tarleton State, which went on to win the tournament against Midwestern State University, beating Tarleton in the final game of the regular season showed Walker the Lions have the capability of playing against the best.

“I thought it was a great experience to beat a nationally-ranked team,” he said, adding he has been stopped on the street by people thanking him for how well-behaved his players were during and after the final game of the season.

Walker said the camaraderie among the players and their effect on the community has been rewarding.

“As a coach you want to know there’s meaning and purpose to it,” he said, adding his players have been a part of multiple community service projects in and around Commerce. “That means a lot to the team.”

The 19-9 Lions will be losing a few players who were key in one of the most successful years of the program, including Devondrick Walker and Tyrie Wooten, who both averaged double digits in points per game and were team leaders.

Walker said even with Walker and Wooten leaving the team, he still has a strong team that will only get stronger with recruiting right around the corner.

Another aspect of the Lions’ promising future is guard De’Andre Carson, who won freshman of the year in the LSC, and averaged seven points and 2.2 assists per game.

Walker said he is not resting, even though the season is over; now is time to recruit for the next year.

“We’re trying to find people who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” he said, adding he wants team-oriented players who will push each other toward the goal he sets. “The goal of our program is not to settle.”   

Walker surrounds himself with players and coaches who he said help bolster the attitude of “we, not me.”

“It’s all about the people you surround yourself with,” he said. “You surround yourself with good people and you’ll be fine.”

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