Antoine Walker: AAU Coach Deluxe?
Shaking your head at the title? Well, now you know that Antoine Walker and his Illinois Fire AAU team is widely considered one of the finest programs on the summer circuit, and this tough and strong team is legit. As large as 6-9 245 lb Walker is on the court, this man is much bigger with his heart off gold off of it: if he has compiled a 20 ppg average and has been a 3 time All Star in the NBA, he has triple those numbers in his volunteer life over the past years.
Last year, I saw his team play at Lynwood High School in the Best of Summer Adidas tournament in Los Angles where Walker looked larger than life: they lived up to the AAU Team’s name by displaying drive, leave it on the floor passion, and a second helping of “guts.” Basically, the team is a mirror of their coach.
Personally, I’ve always looked up to Antoine Walker, I have this friend from Chi town named Lester Neal who went to school with me at Ventura College back in the early 90’s, in our conversations over the years he’s always had great things to say about his friend from Chicago. Neal would end up using his 6-6 brick house frame to demolish opponents in the Pac-10 while at Arizona St. in the early mid 90’s. Honestly, Neal had terrible stories of violence to relate to me about his upbringing on the south side of Chicago, Walker also grew up and lived to be a success story out of these mean streets.
Last week, I lit up with a smile when seeing Walker’s AAU team beat a tough Portland Players team in front of a ton of admiring college coaches at Loyola Marymount University, now was the time to get at him about why he’s out here coaching Chi town kids while most of the NBA is probably vacationing somewhere like in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Lastly, Walker should be commended for setting up his “Real Deal Program” which is a part of his “8 Foundation” in Boston schools, this is a program where junior high kids pledge to do good deeds in school and commit themselves to community service projects like going out to nursing homes to help the elderly: the prize if their culminating project and essay wins is a cool $5,000 -big motivation!
I could go on telling great you stories about Walker and his program, but I’ll let Tierra Guity, an 8th grade student in the program describe them best:
The Real Deal is when you stay true to yourself.
When you’re confident,
Don’t care about the thoughts of everyone else.
The Real Deal is when you keep your head high,
Even when you don’t know how,
You always try
The real deal is getting through the hard cruel world
The Real Deal is us
Timilty Boys and Girls
HoopsVibe.com: Hey, Antoine, you’re looking great, how is the California weather treating you?
Walker: Just fine.
HoopsVibe.com: How are you guys doing in this tournament and is the comp tough?
Walker: We feel good going into it, there’s nice comp.
HoopsVibe.com: What are some of the things that you try to teach the kids out here this summer?
Walker: Just to do their best, I think there is too much pressure on for the kids to think about turning pro and all that stuff, kids just need to get out and play.
HoopsVibe.com: What do you hope the kids take away from being here on this team?
Walker: That this is an opportunity for them, they should just learn to capitalize on that, I just want them to show good sportsmanship out here.
HoopsVibe.com: I think you get the most out of your kids, who are some other good AAU programs off the top of your head that do a nice job?
Walker: You have a lot of guys doing good things in the AAU scene nowadays, guys like Tim Tomas, Bibby, and Paul Pierce have begun to sponsor teams.
HoopsVibe.com: We’ll let you get to your next game right now, good luck for the rest of the tournament.