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Where are they now?: Walter Bond

02/16/2004, 12:00am CST
By Rob Litt

Where Are They Now?

Walter Bond is often regarded as the greatest 6th man in Gopher basketball history. A consistent offensive and defensive presence his entire career, Bond was one of the key pieces to the Gophers run to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 in consecutive years in the late 80s and early 90s. The Chicago, Illinois, native was one of former coach Clem Haskins' first recruits and was instrumental in leading the Gophers within seconds of the 1990 Final Four. A permanent fixture in the Gopher all-time steals record book, Bond turned his Gopher days into an eight-year professional basketball career (including stints with the Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, and Detroit Pistons) and now uses the same intensity that he had on the Williams Arena court in his role as a motivational speaker. Bond recently spent some time with the staff talking about his days as a Gopher, his post-Gopher career path, and his opinion of the current state of the program. Where has your post Gopher career taken you?

Walter Bond After my days with the Gophers, I spent a year in the CBA, where I played with the Wichita Falls Texans and then earned a shot with the Dallas Mavericks. I ended up having an eight-year professional hoops career playing for the Mavericks, Utah Jazz, and Detroit Pistons, as well as stints in Italy, Germany, and Greece.

After professional ball, I spent two years with the Timberwolves broadcast team before founding Walter Bond Seminars in Minneapolis. With Walter Bond Seminars, I am able to build on the lessons I learned from my playing days and am able to incorporate that into increasing business performance for corporations and individuals. (Walter Bond is currently writing a book entitled "œMotivation Made Easy", which will be available nationwide in the spring). Thinking back to your days as a Gopher, which game/games stick out the most and why?

Bond: There are two specific games that stick out. The best memory I have is our win at The Barn over #1 Illinois. It was a game that showed us how the hundreds of hours of hard work paid off and that we had finally turned the corner. It was such an incredible feeling.

The other vivid memory I have is our Elite 8 loss versus Georgia Tech. That was painful, more so because I knew we were better than them, and I think the guys at Tech would agree. We didn't have the NCAA and post-season experience like they did, and I think that showed down the end. I think that loss prepared Coach Haskins for his deep NCAA tournament runs later on in his career. What former teammates/coaches do you most often keep in contact with?

Bond: I keep in touch most often with Rob Metcalf, Richard Coffey, Connell Lewisand Mario Green. I also talk with Coach Haskins about once a year or so. What does it mean to you to be a Golden Gopher?

Bond: I am very proud to be a part of not only the Gopher Basketball program but the entire University of Minnesota as a whole. It's obviously an incredible academic institution, and the Gopher basketball program is in my opinion a vastly underrated program on an historical scale. We've had some outstanding teams and players come through the program, and it's an honor to have been a part of it. And I can't think of a better place to watch a college basketball game than The Barn. If there is one lesson you learned from a coach or teammate that stands out more than any other, what would it be?

Bond: Coach Haskins taught me to be relentless and tenacious in every aspect of my life. He was an extension of my father while at Minnesota, and he taught me that I had to be relentless in basketball and in the business world. I would not be where I am today as a businessperson without his teachings during my days as a Gopher. Who was the best teammate you ever played with and why?

Bond: The teammate I learned from the most was most definitely Connell Lewis. He came to practice every single day with a mindset that he was going to push himself harder than he did the day before and was going to push his teammates harder than the day before. He was not the most gifted player on our team, but no one outworked him, and that taught me a lot about what it meant to have pride in oneself and what it meant to be a teammate.

The most talented player I ever played with was definitely Willie Burton. I think Willie is quite possibly the most talented player ever to play for the U. If he's not the most talented, he's definitely one of the top two or three most talented. His pro career has not quite validated this for one reason or another, but he is a gifted player. He could do it all. Who was the toughest player you ever played against and why?

Bond: In the pros, Reggie Miller was the toughest guy I ever faced. He was always moving, running through pick after pick, and nailing every jumper in site.

In college, the toughest opponent was Steve Smith. He was always so crafty and had such a high basketball IQ. If you could come back and suit up against one team, who would it be and why?

Bond: Definitely Michigan. I loved to beat Michigan and still take pride when the Gophers knock them off. If you could change a thing or two about your time as a Gopher, what would it be?

Bond: I would have come into college better prepared to compete at the D1 level. I entered the U not prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally at this level. It's hard to know that in high school, but it was quite evident early on at the U. If you could give any advice to the current Gopher team, what would it be?

Bond: There are two pieces of advice I would and have given them (Walter recently was a guest speaker for the team and coaches). The first is dealing with the current season they are having. I have obviously been there and know how tough it is to go through and know how awesome the feeling is when it turns around. It will take everything they have inside their hearts to turn it around, but most importantly they have to trust their teammates and coaches.

As far as advice beyond the court while at the U, I would challenge each of them to be an impact person. It starts in the classroom and extends to their personal life. Strive for excellence in every facet of life. Do you still follow the Gophers? If so, what are your thoughts on where the program is and what it will take to turn things around?

Bond: I definitely still follow the team and love to go to the games at Williams Arena. More than anything, this team needs to develop an identity. With Coach Haskins and Sloan (Bond played with legendary Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan), our teams knew that we were going to be tough and intense, and it was the role of the players to fit that mentality. The coaches made it clear from day one the type of team we were going to be. I would like to see the current team have that same mindset. What do you miss most about your time at the U?

Bond: I miss playing for the fans at The Barn. What an incredible experience. With two minutes left, whether we were down by two or up by two, we knew the crowd would refuse to let us lose. I think my ears are still ringing from that Illinois win!

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Tag(s): Where Are They Now?