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Center Maurice Walker

Mo Walker and Charles Buggs in Summer League Action

06/26/2012, 8:15am CDT
By J.B. Bauer

Maurice Walker competing in Howard Pulley Pro City League

Notes and thoughts on Mo Walker, Charles Buggs and more from Monday night at the High Performance Academy in Eagan.  (Photo source: Chris Chambers/Getty Images North America)

Mo Walker

Mo Walker suited up for action Monday night

Maurice Walker

Those of us on hand at High Performance Academy watched Minnesota Golden Gophers' redshirt sophomore Maurice Walker return to game action in the Howard Pulley Pro City League Monday night.  Walker, a native of Canada, redshirted last season while continuing to rehabilitate his right knee after undergoing surgery for a torn PCL and meniscus in January 2011.

The 6'10", 290 pound center came off the bench for an average of 10 minutes a game during the 2010-11 Gopher season, averaging 3.7 points and 2.8 rebounds and highlighted by a 10 point, 5 rebound and 4 assist 15-minute outing at St. Joseph's.  His knee failed him just 12 games into his first season and, until Monday, fans had yet to see him in an organized game since December 2010.   

While the Gophers have two talented seniors that are capable of holding down the front court against most opponents with 6'8" Trevor Mbakwe and 6'7" Rodney Williams, the only returning true center that played in 2011-12 is 6'11" Elliot Eliason (2.6 points, 3.9 rebounds per game).  Mo Walker provides a mountainous presence when on the court and at a minimum provides a space-eating option that can help clear out room for others on offense and subject the opponent to a physical fracas on defense.   

Walker's touch with the ball is what could make him special, though.  With good positioning on the blocks, he's very tough to stop and also has the ability to find open shooters.  Minnesota can afford to take things slow and let him gradually increase his minutes this season, but there should be no question that having him available is important and gives head coach Tubby Smith another dangerous weapon.   

Monday night Walker played quite a bit in the first half and mostly looked like the Mo of old.  He won't be running track meets or taking on Wally Ellenson in high jump competitions any time soon, but overall he looked solid and strong even with the wraps and other devices on both knees and ankles he was wearing.  His sheer size and ability to throw around his weight enables him to rebound and score even without much lift off the ground. 

The big man also has good range on his jump shot (although his 26-foot attempt that clanked off the rim wasn't a thing of beauty).  With three and a half months still to go before regular practices begin, his current status gives another reason to be optimistic with regard to the chances of a special 2012-13 season for Minnesota. 

Late in the second quarter, Maurice hit the deck on a play and aggravated his right ankle which has been giving him problems.  During the halftime break, Walker opened up a packaged medical contraption for his ankle that looked like something out of the Saw movie series.  He managed to install this more elaborate brace, but didn't re-enter the game until the 4-minute mark of the third quarter and then only stayed in for a few minutes. Although it appears the ankle is something that will bother him for awhile, it doesn't look like it will completely shut him down.  

Gopher fans will probably breathe a collective sigh of relief each time he gathers himself off the floor after a physical play for the rest of his career, but the worry will be worth it - Maurice Walker is a nice and unique player. 

Charles Buggs and Other Notes

  • Charles Buggs also played Monday and looked comfortable.  Standing 6'8" and possessing long arms, I think he'll eventually be capable of defending multiple positions for Minnesota.  He's in very good physical shape, but the freshman's slim frame is such that I don't believe he'll ever be a bruiser even after a couple of years in the weight room.  Still, he moves well and was able to score on some jump shots, threw down a pretty dunk off the alley oop and sent a Kyle Washington attempt flying away from the basket.
  • At times, Buggs was a little too creative with his passes, but that can be said many times during a night of Pro City action.  My current belief is that there is good upside for Buggs and his physical tools and abilities make him a solid prospect, but as a freshman he'll likely look like the first-year college player that he is.
  • Austin Hollins, Andre Hollins, Andre Ingram, Rodney Williams and Joe Coleman also played Monday evening, while fellow Gophers Maverick Ahanmisi and Trevor Mbakwe were on hand to cheer for their teammates.
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's was well represented with former Wisconsin point guard Jordan Taylor and 2013 Kyle Washington (who spent three years at BSM before heading out east last year).  Washington, who recently participated in the NBPA Top 100 Camp, has added to his offensive arsenal and started Monday night on a tear.  The 6'9" forward is extremely talented and it's obvious he's been working hard on developing his game.  Minnesota, Marquette and Wisconsin are all involved, but programs across the nation have heavy interest in Kyle.
  • Anders Broman obviously doesn't get the national attention that Howard Pulley teammate Tyus Jones receives, but Broman had a very good EYBL regular season.  Quite simply, he's an excellent shooter and those skills were on display once again Monday.  In some D1 programs he could wind up being a big time scorer who sets records for long distance shooting.  Well worth your time to watch him play.

J.B. Bauer
Twitter: @jbbauer612

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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball