Walden Learned a Great Deal During First Season
Courtesy: Athletics Media Relations  
Release: 06/26/2012
TOWSON, Md. - If you want to know the type of competition Kris Walden faced while starting at point guard for the Towson men’s basketball team as a freshman last season, look no further than the picture associated with this story. In his first collegiate game, playing in front of 16,300 fans at historic Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas, Walden was assigned the task of being the floor general that guided a young Tiger squad that had only one returning letter winner. And just one of many roadblocks in his way was Thomas Robinson (pictured above), who is projected to go as high as No. 2 in Thursday’s National Basketball Association draft.

Despite playing a non-conference schedule that easily ranked as the toughest in the Colonial Athletic Association and coming away with no victories, Walden claims that those experiences will shape him into a better player going forward. Battling nationally-ranked teams in front of hostile road crowds is the type of on-the-job training that most freshmen don’t get.

“What we went through (last year) built character, but believe it or not, it also built confidence,” said Walden. “I don’t second guess myself anymore on the basketball court. I go harder now because I have a different mental approach and thought process compared to when I was a freshman.”

Walden led the team and was ranked sixth in the CAA averaging 34.3 minutes per game last season. And as the teams primary ball handler throughout most of the game, he had to battle pressure defenses that focused on him and fatigue that sometimes crept in during late game situations. The rookie guard averaged 4.5 turnovers per contest.

“I struggled at the beginning of last season, no doubt,” explained Walden. “We faced a tough non-conference schedule and we took some lumps. I felt down but then I realized that you have to step it up as a man and persevere through all situations. I learned a lot about myself, including how strong my character was and in the end that’s going to make me better on and off the court.

“I feel like I have about two years of experience playing compared to the average freshman guard and I plan on putting that knowledge to use,” Walden continued. “I’ve learned how to protect the ball so much more and now I hold myself to a higher standard. That confidence is helping me propel my game and now I just have to focus on improving even more every day.”

Walden doesn’t foresee putting up anywhere near those kinds of turnover numbers ever again in his basketball career. Help is on the way as the Tigers expect to have a plethora of talented options at the guard position this year which will ease the load on Walden. At the same time, his work ethic has never wavered and his game has vastly improved.

“I feel like I’m so much further along than where I was this time last year and it’s not even close,” says Walden. “A year of basketball under my belt helps, but now that we’re allotted time with the coaches in the summer we’re learning so much.”

There’s a great deal of optimism surrounding the potential of Walden, especially with how strong he finished his freshman campaign. The rookie averaged 18.0 points per game in his last three contests and set a season-high in scoring twice. He posted 18 points in the regular season home finale against Delaware and then followed that effort up with a stellar 23 point performance at James Madison in which he connected on five three-point field goals and also swiped four steals.

Walden, who led all freshmen in the CAA and ranked ninth overall by averaging 3.2 assists per game last season, says his goal for next year is to have a 3 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio. In order to do that he realized changes must be made to his body, preparation and the way he looks at the game.

“I have to use my body a lot more to protect the basketball,” Walden explained. “Now, I play with people on my hips so much more and I have hit the weight room big time. “Coach (Adam) Fletcher is working me hard and I’ve already put on 12 pounds since the season was over. Now it’s easier for me to keep a defender on my hip, survey the floor and then see the mismatch and attack. Last year I was just trying to prove that I was faster than everybody and I’d attempt to get around defenders on my own. That created fatigue and careless turnovers. But that’s in the past.”

One thing head coach Pat Skerry will never have to worry about with Walden is his work ethic and dedication to the Tigers. Whether it’s a picture on twitter of him getting shots up on Easter Sunday or it’s a mention of him and teammates out on the track putting in extra time away from the court to get quicker, it’s clear his focus is on improving himself and this team going forward. Walden realizes that the culture surrounding the Tiger basketball program has changed significantly in just one year.

“Towson basketball has a new feeling and it’s exciting,” said Walden. “The best thing about this group now is that everyone has somebody pushing them. Everyone has someone to battle and compete with and that will make everyone better. Then, when we play together in the games, it’ll come together as one piece and it’s going to be exciting to watch.”


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