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Shields: Elizabeth City State scores with Walker's return

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George L. Bright, athletic director at Elizabeth City State University, gives his opening remarks before introducing Shawn Walker as the new men's basketball coach, Friday. Seated to the right is ECSU interim chancellor Karrie Dixon.

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By Malcolm Shields
Sports Editor

Saturday, August 18, 2018

It’s the perfect match for the Elizabeth City State men’s basketball program.

The university is hoping to tap into some of its past success on the hardwood by bringing back Shawn Walker.

Walker, who coached the Vikings from 2002 to 2014, was announced as head coach on Friday afternoon.

For Walker, he returns to an ECSU program where he made his name.

He coached the Vikings to the 2007 CIAA men’s basketball tournament championship.

Walker, an ECSU Sports Hall of Famer, suited up for the Vikings in the mid-1990s.

The coach, a native of Roper, noted that it was an easy draw to return to Elizabeth City.

“This is a place I’ve grown to love,” Walker said. “It’s an attractive situation, an opportunity for me to get back on the sideline after a year off. I’m excited about being back. I’m excited about the opportunities that exist here.”

The energy around the hire was obvious inside the third-floor lobby of ECSU’s Thorpe Administration Building during the press conference and on social media.

Area coaches, fans and alumni of ECSU have praised the return of Walker.

When it was reported Thursday that Walker would be named coach, reactions on my Twitter feed were from “He’s Back!” from one follower.

An area college basketball coach responded, “FINALLY!!!! A right move!!!”

Even when Walker was coaching at Division I Grambling State from 2014 to 2017, he was still around the region.

When his son, Shawn Walker Jr., played basketball at Northeastern High School from the 2015-16 season, Walker could be seen at a NHS game when the Tigers weren’t in action.

Walker brought his team to the Vaughan Center to face Mid-Atlantic Christian early in the 2015-16 campaign.

Walker, who has been out of coaching at the college ranks for a season, returns to ECSU and will try to rebuild a program that has history of success.

And he knows the ends-and-outs of the program and the region.

Walker Sr. wants to be active and engaging to the community.

One of his first tasks is to bond with his players.

After the press conference, Walker Sr. and the players met for the first time.

A standout guard in his own right, Walker will get the chance to coach Zaccheus Hobbs, who was named CIAA Rookie of the Year last winter.

“I’m glad that we finally found a coach,” Hobbs said. “It seems like the best fit for us. I have been hearing a lot of great things about him.”

ECSU athletic director George Bright and the university’s search committee appear to have nailed this hire.

Bright said that the return of Walker Sr. has created a buzz on campus.

“It’s a buzz that we can’t package, a buzz that we can’t go buy somewhere,” he said.

For Bright, it’s a sign that ECSU athletics is back.

Walker is a local that is a winner.

A winning attitude and a winning culture has been missing in recent years.

Even with the Vikings coming off of a 12-15 overall record, Walker noted that there isn’t any comparisons between ECSU now and when he took over Grambling State in 2014.

“Grambling clearly was only in the newspaper before I got there for being bad,” Walker said. “[ECSU] is a really good, young team. There is some accomplished players in this program. There are some very good talent and, I think, guys that are ready to win... The cupboard is not bare. We have an opportunity to grow on what has been done in the one year that they were assembled.”

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