It’s Always Sonny in Champaign
By: Alex Wallner
After an eight year era ends, with the firing of Bruce Weber, questions come up about there come questions about Illinois hoops. How will the team fair under a new coach? How will they be disciplined under this new coach? Will they ever put another banner in the Assembly Hall? How will this new coach impact what future NBA standouts like Meyers Leonard and Brandon Paul? As for a new coach, names include VCU’s coach, Shaka Smart, Butler’s, Bradley Stevens and Alabama’s, Anthony Grant. These names might be appealing, but there is one local coach that stands out and coaches locally and will be the new assistant to recently hired John Groce. This man is Sonny Walker, assistant coach of the Centennial Chargers varsity basketball program.
Coach Walker not only wants to take his assistant coaching talents to a new level, but wants to stay in the area as well. Coach Walker, who played basketball at the high school and collegiate levels, knows the ups and downs of a basketball program and how it should be managed and coached. When asked of his expectations at Illinois, Walker responded, “To recruit Jabari Parker. He is the number one player in the country and we need him here to be successful.” Walker is right as every team needs to build a system through their states in order to be a dominant program. It just so happens that the best player in the nation plays in Illinois on one of the top five teams in the nation, Simeon High School, located in downtown Chicago. Parker coming to Illinois would be a huge boost to the program as he would spark a new era of talent at Illinois and would hopefully catapult the team to national championship contention once again.
Coach Walker not only expects to get the best player to come to Illinois, but hopes to very well dominate immediately. When asked if he expected to win a national championship within his first five seasons, Walker said, “Absolutely, I expect to win two.” Walker shows great confidence, not only in his attempts, but his progress for his future; winning two national championships in five years will make the University of Illinois program, which is already a top ten program in the nation, even stronger than it has been in the last decade.
Coach Walker in going to Illinois makes a huge decision on his part, because of his love of high school basketball. Not only is it him though, but the players as well. Junior guard, Dustin Walls was asked of how he felt about Coach Walker leaving and said, “I think he will step up to the plate and become a good coach at Illinois, but he will be missed.” The absence of a coach takes a big toll on a player, since the players develop long lasting relationships with their coaches almost like a father figure to them, because of how close they happen to be. Walls was then asked of how successful the team will be without Coach Walker on the sidelines and said, “He will be missed, but stuff happens where when an opportunity like this arises, you need to take it.” Becoming a college coach is harder than it sounds, the responsibilities become more and more challenging as you have to go through not only the coaching process, but the recruiting process. April Fools!