Eagles bid fond farewell to Walker

PAUL Blake last night admitted he felt privileged to have spent seven years working with TJ Walker as the popular point-guard called time on his distinguished career in the North-East.

PAUL Blake last night admitted he felt privileged to have spent seven years working with TJ Walker as the popular point-guard called time on his distinguished career in the North-East.

Although Newcastle officials have spent recent weeks attempting to persuade the American to return to Tyneside for the forthcoming BBL season, Walker was last night confirmed as player-coach at Chester Jets.

A player who led the Eagles to six domestic trophies during a remarkable career at the club will make his first return to the Metro Radio Arena on October 27. It promises to be an emotional affair – with Blake aware that Walker’s presence will be missed.

“We want to wish TJ all the best,” said the club’s appreciative managing director, who offered the Californian a contract to return for an eighth campaign in a Newcastle vest. “He has given seven years of tremendous service to the club and he will go down in the annals of Eagles history.

“It has been a privilege to have had the opportunity to have him at the club for this length of time – seven years is an excellent tenure for a player in the BBL and we have all enjoyed working with TJ, just as the supporters have enjoyed watching him.

“It was a difficult decision for him to take, just as it has been hard for us to see him leave us. We offered him a contract but he has ambitions to coach and this is the first rung on the ladder. It’s a great chance for him and I can’t fault him for taking it. He has been talking at length with (coach) Fab (Flournoy) over the last two or three weeks, but he felt it was time to take the next step. Chester offered him a coaching role and that’s something we could not offer now or in the near future.”

A player who has ambitions to become a high school coach in the United States, Walker deliberated over his decision but felt it was too good to turn down.

“This is the right place at the right time in my career,” he said. “I’m looking to develop my role as a coach so it was a real no-brainer. Chester is a real basketball city, the fans are so passionate and I want to help to put the club back to where it’s supposed to be at – winning trophies.”

Walker won the BBL Play-Offs twice, the BBL Trophy twice and the Championship and Cup once each during his time at Newcastle. Flournoy’s big challenge will be attempting to compensate for such a talented player, with the New Yorker having stepped up his recruitment plans in recent days.

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