Andre Walker has found a new home on the hardwood.
The former Vanderbilt forward will transfer to Xavier after being courted by Kansas, Wichita State, Marquette and Northwestern, among others.
Walker spent the last four years at Vanderbilt but had one remaining season of eligibility because he redshirted in 2008-09 due to a torn knee ligament. He graduated from Vanderbilt in May with a degree in human and organizational development.
He plans to complete his master’s degree in sports management at Xavier.
“I just wanted a change of scenery, something fresh,” Walker said on Tuesday night. “Sports management plays a big part in [the transfer]. They don’t offer that [graduate program] at Vanderbilt.”
The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Walker played in just 15 games for Vanderbilt last year. He missed half of the season due to mononucleosis and a severe ankle sprain. He averaged three points, three rebounds and 2.6 assists.
“I was injured a lot at Vanderbilt so I couldn’t really play how I wanted to,” Walker said.
When he was healthy, Walker was one of Vanderbilt’s best defenders and passers. A year after knee surgery and his mother’s sudden death, he set career-highs of 6.1 points and 5.4 rebounds in 2009-10, when he started 31 games.
When the 2010-11 campaign began to fill up with illness and injury, Walker began to have second thoughts about playing basketball. Shortly after he graduated though, “a whole bunch of people started calling me and offering me” scholarships.
“So I thought I should look into it because I probably want to go in the sports industry and I can learn more about the sports industry by getting a master’s in sports management,” Walker, who had an internship with a sports agency in Chicago last year, said. “… I wanted to give it one last go.”
Xavier, in Cincinnati, is just a five-hour drive from Walker’s hometown of Flossmoor, Ill. But the 23-year-old said proximity didn’t play much of a factor.
“It just happened that I liked [Xavier] the best,” he said.
The Musketeers went 24-8 last year and won the Atlantic-10 Conference’s regular-season championship. They have reached the NCAA Tournament the last six seasons, including back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in 2009 and 2010 and an Elite Eight trip in 2008.
They are ranked as high as 10th in some early preseason polls.
“I feel really good [about Xavier],” Walker said. “They usually do really well in their conference and they do have a lot of success in the postseason.”
Walker hopes to break into the starting lineup as a power forward but said he wasn’t guaranteed anything.
“Just from talking to them and seeing what they have, if I do what I have to do then, yeah, that is going to happen,” Walker said. “I definitely think I have the skills [to start].”
As for Vanderbilt, Walker said he enjoyed his time on the court and was grateful for the opportunity.
“At first I didn’t really think much about it,” he said. “But now thinking back on it and because I still keep in contact with a lot of those guys. It is going to be really weird not being with them for the final year. I had a lot of fun with those guys and built up some strong friendships. So, yeah, it is going to be hard not being with them for the last year.”
• Barnes leaves Bisons: Lipscomb guard Brandon Barnes has also left Music City.
The 6-foot-3 native of Douglasville, Ga., was granted a release from the university and intends to transfer to California State University-Bakersfield to play for his father, Rod. Barnes averaged 6.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 17.9 minutes as a redshirt freshman last year. He started in seven games but might have assumed a bigger role during the 2011-12 campaign.
Starters Adnan Hodzic, Josh Slater and Brandon Brown all finished their seasons last year.