Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Former team up next for Samarie Walker

When Samarie Walker walked into Kentucky locker room with a few cameramen just a few feet behind there were a few bemused looks on the faces of her teammates.

The Wildcats knew that if the seeds held true to form and Walker's new team would be squaring off with her former team with a spot in the Final Four on the line that Walker would be in great demand from the assembled media in Kingston, R.I.

Their hunch was correct.

Walker didn't shy away from any of the questions either when they were asked in the official press conference or a few minutes later in the locker room. She cited homesickness as the major reason why she opted to leave UConn and transfer to Kentucky.

"I feel like I am answering questions everybody wanted to be answered," Walker said. "I feel like it is going to be over soon. They have been waiting for a year now."

Naturally she was asked about what led to her leaving UConn after playing 17 games during the 2010-11 season.

"I was just homesick," Walker said. "I had a six year old brother I am close with, I am close with both of my parents and I am from Ohio. It's close but not too close. I feel like when people ask "why would you want to leave UCon, you have to be in that position to know. Everybody has an opinion and of course you have to deal with it.

"I talked to all them (UConn teammates) before I left and I talked to some of them now, I saw some of the managers in the hallway and I gave them hugs and we talked for a little bit. There are no hard feelings between me and the team and the coaches.

"I feel like some of them knew I was but they didn't know that is what is was. I told them it felt like I lost my passion but I didn't know what it was and I was homesick. I realized when I came here and was able to go home on weekends but there was some kind of miscommunication so hopefully answering these questions will help with all of this."

Speaking of miscommunication, that is what Walker considered the situation that played out in a Jan. 15 game against Louisville when UConn coach Geno Auriemma asked Walker if she wanted to go in. The response was not what Auriemma was looking for so she did not. When the team left for North Carolina a couple days later Walker was left behind. She would never play for the Huskies again.

"I remember we were in a timeout and he asked me if I wanted to play and did I want to go back in the game?" Walker said. "I nodded my head yeah but he wanted a verbal answer and that was definitely a miscommunication between the both of us because I did want to play, I did want to go back into the game. He wanted a verbal answer and i thought nodding my head was enough."

Auriemma has chosen not to go into many of the details leading to Walker's departure but did not seem overly concerned about having to game plan to deal with Walker, who has had double doubles in her last two games.

"I have heard that a lot about people losing their passion for basketball and then they end up playing somewhere else," Auriemma said. "Kids don't play basketball all their lives and all of a sudden they lose their passion for basketball. She lost her passion for what I wanted her to do at Connecticut and decided that her passion was somewhere else. She is where her passion is and we are where we are regardless of the reasons. She didn't belong at Connecticut and she belongs at Kentucky.

"You look at the history of our program and we've never had a great player leave that has played there, been
there, spent time there and after a year or two years say I don't want to be there any more. The jury is out whether Samarie Walker will be a great player at Kentucky but maybe she will be the first one."

If there is any lingering resentment towards Walker from her former UConn teammates, they did a nice job of hiding it.

"Samarie's a great player, she works really hard on the boards," said sophomore center Stefanie Dolson, who roomed with her at UConn. "The main thing we would see is how she goes after the ball, she has gotten a lot better at it and playing hard. Every time I played with her she did what she can and is always crashing
the boards and playing pretty good defense.

"We are definitely happy for her. We are happy she is at a place she is enjoying (herself) and she is having fun and really adding to their program. It is definitely not easy leaving a program because you don't want to let your teammates down but she is happy. It was hard when it happened but we kind of all moved on."

Auriemma was asked if the UConn players will play with any extra motivation to prove something to their former teammate.

"I don't think they have anything to prove to Samarie Walker," Auriemma said. "I wouldn't know what was, what they would have to prove to her. This isn't like Larry Bird left the Celtics and now is playing for the Lakers. We are talking about a kid who left as a freshman played 20 minutes the other night and I don't think Samarie Walker's going to have a difference in the game either or them or for us."

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