February 14, 2008

Walker doesn't get enough defense applause

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Wearing a cherry-colored baseball cap and a dejected expression, Kansas State freshman Bill Walker emerged from the visitors' locker room at the United Spirit Arena following Wednesday's 84-75 loss to Texas Tech, fully aware of the repercussions of what had just occurred, and all the while accepting the fact that at least some, if not most, of the blame for his team's second defeat of the conference season would fall on his broad shoulders.

The reasons for fans to love Walker are many -- he led the Wildcats with 27 points in the defeat -- but the 6-foot-6 forward's unparalleled athleticism, almost inhuman leaping ability and vibrant personality have slowly been overshadowed by recently emerging questions about his desire, work ethic and attitude, and the West Virginia native and those close to him are all too aware of the slowly evolving public opinion.

"It's not his defense or his desire," said K-State coach Frank Martin. "Bill is an emotional guy. For some reason, people like to take his emotions and turn in into trying to find a negative. That's fine. He knows all about what has been said, but he doesn't care. I sure don't care either. As long as he's doing everything we ask him to do in the scouting reports and at game time, people can say what they want."

Regardless of whether it matters or not, the question must be asked: Why does a kid who was perceived as a fiery leader and one of the most beloved figures in all of Manhattan not so long ago, all of a sudden seem to be in the process of being slapped with the label of selfish villain?

The answer is as complex as some of the most recent knocks on Walker are ridiculous.

Walker and players like him face a unique situation, as their day-to-day labels are nearly completely dependent on the result to their team's last game. After a win, they're called passionate, while in a loss they are regarded as cancerous.

In K-State's most recent loss, Walker was one of just three Wildcat starters to avoided being teed up, and still fans and members of the media alike would rather single out Walker for what were perceived to be on-court temper tantrums. Meanwhile, at no fault of their own, K-State's "national star" (Michael Beasley) and its "hardest worker" (Blake Young) are issued what is essentially a free pass for their actions, based on the same preexisting labels that help to condemn their teammate.

Walker's emotion isn't the end of the recent line of nitpicking, however. There is the is realm of defense, in which the K-State freshman has also somehow built a reputation which, much like at aura surrounding Walker after K-State's loss to Texas Tech, is not a positive one.

In the public eye, Walker is becoming known for soft, lackadaisical defense, but those he takes the court with and against seem to know better, and warn not to buy into something on hearsay alone.

"I don't why people think Bill is lazy or a (bad defender)," said Beasley, who Walker guards every day in practice. "He's quick, and he moves his feet well. I don't understand why he gets that reputation at all. They guy does a good job when he guards me."

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