Nov. 1, 2006
If it wasn’t for basketball, junior defensive specialist Lauren Walker may have never been a volleyball player.
Basketball is sport of choice in the Walker household. Her father George scored over 1,000 points at the University of Houston and was an assistant coach there during the “Phi Slamma Jamma” days with NBA All-Stars Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon with whom Lauren has met on numerous occasions and her father still keeps in touch with.
Growing up in Missouri City, Texas – a southwest suburb of Houston – Lauren herself was a pretty good basketball player, but she needed something to fill the void before the basketball season began so she tried out for the volleyball team in seventh grade. Walker enjoyed the three years later at Hightower High School her volleyball skills had caught up to her abilities on the hardwood and she made the decision to stick with volleyball.
“My dad let me pick my own sport, he knew I liked volleyball better,” Walker said. “Between my sophomore and junior years of high school I started to play more club and I stopped playing basketball.”
After spending last summer as a club coach, Walker does not want to follow in her father’s footsteps into coaching, but when she’s on the sidelines for the Seminoles, she’s almost like a student assistant.
“During the match I mostly talk to the hitters,” Walker noted. “I try to give them the defender’s prospective and see where there might be any weakness that we can use to score points. I’ll tell Makini (Thompson) that the tip is open or Jessica Skower will ask me what I see open.”
It’s that mental focus that makes Walker one of FSU’s top reserves in the back row. Anytime Walker gets into the match she brings instant energy and pretty solid defense. Her small stature may attract the attention of opposing offenses, but after the 5-foot-7 Walker comes through with some tough serve receives or a great pass they know she’s legitimate.
This season she’s come off the bench to post six digs against Clemson then in the very next match she came back with season-best seven versus North Carolina. Walker must have the Tar Heels’ number as last year she set her career-high with 11 digs. Last season was one of Walker’s best with the Seminoles as she played in 15 matches and made a trio of starts.
“Coming in off the bench I try to raise the level of play when I get on the court by doing my job, which is digging and passing,” Walker added. “You envision yourself in someone else’s position or making plays if you get in and what you need to to bring your team up when you get in. I try to stay focused the entire match because you never know when you’re going to go in or if you’re going in.”
Even more than her ability to pass the ball, Walker’s biggest asset may be the enthusiasm she brings to the team. Whenever the Seminoles need a spark, whether it’s with a big dig on the court or through words of encouragement during a time out, she is there for them.
“To put into prospective the energy she brings, Lauren doesn’t come to practice on Tuesday until 3:30 and I’m so depressed. As soon as she gets on the court I’m so excited,” Thompson said. “If I don’t want to come to practice, but Lauren’s there, everything is okay. She’s really outgoing and so funny. She’ll say anything or do anything just to make people laugh.”
It appears that basketball’s loss as been volleyball’s gain and no one is more appreciative of that than Florida State.