To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-
With the now-confirmed return of once and future assistant coach Chris Walker to Villanova, as reported by VUHoops, I thought that it would be worthwhile, to look back at the era when Walker was a Wildcat-
from his arrival in the fall of 1988, to his graduation in the spring of 1992...
Note: This doesn't focus on Walker as an individual player, but instead, on the overall seasons and state of the program during his four years. That four-year span saw major changes for Villanova, in terms of the coaching staff, its relationship with the Big Five, and the fundamental nature of the Big East.
Villanova When Chris Walker Was a Wildcat - Overview
Walker's career bridged eras at Villanova. He was recruited by the legendary Roland V. Massimino, known universally as Rollie or "Daddy Mass", the winner of the magical national championship in 1985.
Walker's four years also represented the final four years under Rollie, who departed under acrimonious circumstance after the 1992 season. Rollie left for Nevada-Las Vegas, where he succeeded Jerry "Tark the Shark" Tarkanian. The program moved forward under Steve Lappas, who had been Rollie's assistant for several years, including the national title year in 1985, seven years earlier.
Walker's tenure also bridged eras for the Big East and Big Five. When Walker arrived, the Big East had just nine teams. The Big Five was still intact, although most of the games were no longer played at the Palestra.
However, by the time Walker graduated, the Big East had expanded to include Miami (Fla.), setting off the complicated saga which led to the considerable 21st-century turmoil and convulsions we've experienced recently. And equally importantly, Walker's senior class was the first Villanova class since 1955, not to face all four City Series rivals, as seniors.
Fortunately, after facing fully justified criticism for doing so, during the entire 1990s, Villanova finally repented and returned to the full round-robin in 1999-2000!!!
It was the Golden Age of the Big East, and Villanova was a middle-of-the-pack squad during those four years. Nonetheless, the strength of the conference was such that Walker's Wildcats received two NCAA bids and a NIT bid, while he was there.
Chris Walker's Freshman Season - 1988-89
The Wildcats had just come off one of the most successful years in school history, as 1987-88 had been a great season. Villanova ultimately finished with a 24-13 record, had been nationally ranked, and reached the Elite Eight for the second time in four years.
It was also a banner year for Philadelphia basketball, as Temple had been ranked #1 nationally, for most of the season, before also falling in the Elite Eight. In addition, La Salle was still a power at that point, with Lionel Simmons leading the way.
Not surprisingly, then, Walker's freshman year was a rebuilding year at Villanova. The team ended the regular season with a mediocre 16-15 record. They needed to win the Big East tournament to go to the NCAAs, but lost in the quarterfinals to Pittsburgh (it was only a nine-team tournament), and so headed to the NIT. The Wildcats defeated St. Peter's and Penn State, before falling to Michigan State, ending their season.
Chris Walker As a Villanova Wildcat - Sophomore Season - 1989-90
Walker did not start as a freshman, but he moved permanently into the starting lineup as a sophomore. Although the Wildcats finished the regular season with just a 17-13 record, the top-to-bottom power of the Big East was so formidable, that Villanova was a bubble team- even with that record.
Villanova was able to secure a NCAA bid, by beating St. John's in the quarterfinals and losing to Syracuse in the semifinals of the Big East tournament. Unfortunately, they fell to a LSU squad featuring Shaquille O'Neal and Chris Jackson, in the first round of the NCAA tournament, in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Part 2 of Villanova When Chris Walker As A Wildcat will be coming up soon, so please check back... it will cover his junior and senior years, which neatly coincides with the two final years of Massimino's coaching tenure at Villanova...
Of course, also check back for the latest posts in the Senior Farewell series, in which I'll be looking back at the Villanova tenures of the other two departing Wildcats, Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham. The Frank Tchuisi and Shane Clark series are already completed, as well as the first half of Anderson's tenure.
Cunningham will be coming up last, as speculation about his draft position in the June 25 NBA draft will be reaching fever pitch as the month goes on...
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