Walker embracing key role for Rams
URI’s Antwan Walker currently leads the A-10 in field goal shooting (Photo: URI Athletics)
By NICK SIMEONE
Since he arrived in Kingston, Antwan Walker has always been a key player for the Rhode Island Rams. Starter, bench guy, power player, wing defender. Walker has checked a lot of boxes for coach David Cox.
This season he’s become a staple off the bench after leading Rhode Island with 25 games started in 2020-21. However, that hasn’t stopped his hunger or production, as he’s averaging 8.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 20.8 minutes per game this season. He added a vital contribution in Tuesday’s 72-62 win over the Sacred Heart Pioneers, providing 10 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks for the Rams.
Cox says he certainly notices the tenacity that the Georgetown transfer plays with on both
sides of the floor, and the energy he brings. That was one of the key reasons Cox subbed out his entire starting lineup six minutes into the game and opted for Walker and other reserves.
“There was a lack of energy, lack of effort, not like I wanted it to be,” Cox said after the
Rams fell behind 13-9 before the substitution wave. “We’ve got a lot of capable bodies, a lot of guys
that are hungry to play, and a lot of guys off that bench who can give us different things at
Walker is currently leading the Atlantic 10 in field goal percentage, shooting 66.7% from
the field to date. He has been Rhode Island’s most efficient offensive player, boasting a 45.5%
mark from beyond the arc as well. That three-point shooting mark is a significant improvement for
the Redshirt Junior, as he was 13-for-47 (27.7%) through his first three collegiate seasons.
Thus far this season Walker has been paired with Malik Martin off the bench, providing size and
strong defensive ability. Though Martin and Walker have come off the bench every game, Cox refers to them as among the group of “seven starters” for the Rams. The two forwards are a significant reason why Rhode Island out-scores opposing benches by over eight points per game. The emergence of Providence native Sebastian Thomas has helped in this regard as well. The quick guard saw a season-high 26 minutes off the bench against Sacred Heart and brings a spark of energy similar to Walker’s when he enters the game.
Cox said that more attention to rebounding was a point of emphasis going into the Sacred Heart game, something that Walker takes to heart. He led the Rams with eight boards. “We worked a lot on blocking out and crashing… and I was glad to see them come through with that today.”
The Rams are now 7-3 and a perfect 5-0 at the Ryan Center. That comfort won’t be available for the next two games as Rhody will be going on the road to face Milwaukee next Monday. Then they’ll face the College of Charleston in a neutral-site game in Washington, D.C., on December 19. The Rams close out non-conference play on December 22 at home against Brown before kicking off Atlantic 10 play at the Ryan Center vs. the Dayton Flyers on
Depth is always crucial for conference play, and Walker will most certainly look to bring the same tenacity he has brought all season. He is no stranger to to the rigors of conference competition, as this will now be his third season in what should be an extremely competitive A-10 race. Rhody was voted to finish seventh in the league’s annual preseason conference poll but with continued strong play from Walker – and the entire bench – perhaps that prediction will be proven incorrect.