FAYETTEVILLE — Former Arkansas star Darrell Walker played his final game in Barnhill Arena in 1983, wrapping up an All-American career.
The former NBA player and current New York Knicks assistant coach was back on the floor for something entirely different Saturday: His college graduation.
Walker, nearly 30 years after his final season with the Razorbacks, received his degree in human resource management during the school’s fall graduation ceremony Saturday morning. It was a special moment for Walker, who was joined by his Arkansas coach, Eddie Sutton, for the ceremony.
“It’s really just sinking in,” said Walker, who also attended the Arkansas-Alcorn State game on Saturday night. “I spent a lot of time with coach Sutton (Friday) night and all day (Saturday). (Saturday) afternoon at the ceremony we sat next to each other at the ceremony during the whole event. So I’m just taking it all in.
“I’ve exhaled and said, ‘It’s finally over with.’”
The former All-American said he has been working on his degree since 2004, when he began taking online courses with the University of Phoenix. He worked off and on for awhile and eventually enrolled in online courses at Arkansas to finish the work.
Walker said he was motivated to finish his degree for several reasons. One of them was the chance for any future opportunities to become a college head coach.
Most programs require coaching candidates to have college degrees.
“I have it in my back pocket now just in case I want to go in that direction,” he said.
Walker has spent his post-basketball career working as an assistant coach or scout for several NBA teams. He is in his second season (first full season) as an assistant coach with the New York Knicks, who drafted him in the first round in 1983.
The Knicks allowed Walker to miss the team’s game against Cleveland to attend Saturday’s ceremony. Walker was recognized for completing his degree during a first-half timeout in Arkansas’ win in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday night.
Walker has been back on Arkansas’ campus – and has attended several games in Bud Walton Arena – since the end of his career. But he couldn’t remember the last time he was in Barnhill Arena, where the graduation ceremony was held Saturday.
“To graduate in Barnhill Arena with coach Sutton, it’s like somebody just drew a full circle,” Walker said. “It feels good. Hopefully I made a bunch of people in the state of Arkansas proud. A bunch of alumni really wanted me to come back and get my degree. More than that, hopefully other U of A athletes who have not finished school can see you still have time to go ahead and finish it.”
Gulley Makes Debut
Former Fayetteville High star Fred Gulley made his Arkansas debut Saturday night, playing 13 minutes in Arkansas’ win against the Braves. NCAA rules required Gulley to sit out a full year after transferring from Oklahoma State last December.
The guard entered the game late in the first half to a small applause. He finished with 5 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals in his first game with the Razorbacks.
“He wanted his family to see him play again,” said roommate Coty Clarke. “I was just excited for him. He didn’t want to force anything. He just wanted to take his time and get a feel for it. … He looked pretty poised out there.”
Haydar Adds A Three
Arkansas guard Kikko Haydar was the first player off the bench Saturday night and didn’t waste any time getting on the stat sheet. He knocked down a 3-pointer to give Arkansas a 16-12 lead, kicking off a 40-12 run the rest of the half.
It helped Haydar improve to 7-for-7 on 3-point attempts over a six-game stretch. His streak of consecutive made 3-pointers was snapped with a miss in the second half, but Haydar is now 7-for-11 behind the 3-point line this season.