From London to Boston: Shaquille Walters looks to lead Northeastern to its first NCAA Tournament since 2019 | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Monday / April 22.
  • From London to Boston: Shaquille Walters looks to lead Northeastern to its first NCAA Tournament since 2019

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    For the past five years, Shaquille Walters has grown accustomed to walking into the unknown. 

    With a tremendous ability to adapt, Walters has never stopped improving as he’s moved overseas from the United Kingdom for the opportunity to play college basketball and make his NBA dreams a reality. 

    At 6-foot-6, 190-pounds, Walters has the uninhibited tenacity and confidence necessary in an elite college defender.

    “I know I’m one of the best defenders in the world,” he said. “I feel like I’m the most impactful player every time I play.” 

    Growing up in London, England, Walters was primarily a soccer athlete until being introduced to the game of basketball at the age of 11. 

    It was during his time at primary school when a classmate invited him to join the local basketball club. Not long after, Walters would find himself shuffling from soccer practice to basketball practice, still unsure which path he would take.

    “There was a time when it was clashing,” he said. 

    He had to make a decision, ultimately locking his sights on basketball, excited by the novelty of the game he started playing just years before. 

    And when it came to making difficult decisions, Walters always had his family by his side, living alongside his mother and younger sister. 

    “That was a trio right there,” Walters said. 

    However, being with family often meant more than just his mom and sister. Walters was a part of a large family unit filled with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins always in the neighborhood. 

    “I used to go out of my house and there would be 20 people there, everyone just hanging around, talking,” he said. 

    Starting his high school basketball career at City of London Academy, Walters soon realized that he may have a future in this game. 

    With this future on his mind, Walters made the decision to go overseas, transferring to Lee Academy in Lee, Maine. 

    “It was in the middle of nowhere,” Walters said. 

    Yet, it was during his one year stint in Maine that Walters began forming one of his closest friendships. 

    Ronnie Turner, 23 at the time, served as an assistant coach at Lee Academy, instantly developing rapport with Walters based on both individuals’ propensity to put in the extra effort. 

    “He just saw the passion, the hard work and dedication I have for the game,” Walters said. “That’s the base of our bond. He’s one of the hardest workers I know.” 

    And it was at Lee Academy that Walters began to land on the radar of Northeastern assistant coaches Brian McDonald and Chris Markwood. However, it was Santa Clara head coach Herb Sendek and assistant Julius Hodge that landed Walters heading out of high school in 2017. 

    “We fell in love with his versatility, his size, athleticism and again, he’s such a great kid,” McDonald said. “We unfortunately missed out on him.” 

    Upon arrival at Santa Clara, Walters lacked the guidance necessary to fully understand how to navigate the college experience. And with his family more than 5,000 miles away in London, he never learned the ins and outs of NCAA basketball. 

    “I was just kind of going through it and learning on the fly,” he said. 

    Unlike his time at prep school, this time Walters was astonished by the physicality of the college game, battling with 22-year-olds in practice and lacking the physical strength to compete. This led to a freshman campaign in which Walters averaged only 14.8 minutes per game and scored only 79 points all season. 

    “They’ve been there for three to four years, lifting,” Walters said. “I wasn’t strong enough.” 

    Off the court, it wasn’t any easier. Walters missed his family and friends back in the U.K., and debated leaving Santa Clara. 

    “There was no guidance from family or friends,” Walters said. “Whereas in America, most players knew one person that’s been through it. I didn’t know anyone. I was just learning as I went along.” 

    Once he entered the transfer portal at the end of his freshman year, it looked like Walters was once again walking back into the unknown before two familiar faces arrived, Brian McDonald and Chris Markwood.  

    For Walters, his decision came down to Northeastern and Drexel and ultimately decided to join the school that recruited him in high school for the 2018-19 season. 

    “My first year at Northeastern was another year of me walking into the unknown and just believing in myself and what I bring to the table,” Walters said. 

    The prior season, Northeastern had squandered a 17-point lead in the CAA Championship, with an NCAA Tournament appearance on the line, falling to Charleston 83-76 in overtime. This year, the team was hell-bent on avenging that heartbreaking defeat. 

    And as soon as he arrived at Northeastern, it was clear, this team was on a mission. However, after averaging 3.8 points and 14.8 minutes in the team’s first 10 games, Walters went down with a wrist injury, forcing him to have surgery and miss the remainder of the season. 

    After averaging only 3.8 points in 14.8 minutes per game, Walters missed Northeastern’s only NCAA Tournament appearance since joining the roster. Still, his maturity had improved and he was fully understanding what it takes to be successful. 

    The next season, Walters began to come into his own, starting in 29 of 32 games and when freshman guard Tyson Walker went down with a shoulder injury in late February, Walters finally got his chance to lead his team. 

    In his first game since Walker’s injury, Walters posted 15 points and six assists on 60 percent shooting in a 77-57 win over James Madison on February 27.

    Just three days later, Walters was back at it, scoring 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting, while also dishing out nine assists in a 72-75 loss to Towson in the Huskies’ regular season finale. 

    “He did such a good job running the point,” McDonald said. “It was really, really exciting for us to see it all come together for him. For him to run the show, that’s a thing he’s always really worked for.” 

    Walters scored 14 points in Northeastern’s CAA Tournament opener, leading his team to a 72-62 victory over Towson, before falling back to earth with an eight-point, five-assist game in a 68-60 second round victory over Elon. 

    Northeastern’s season came to an end one day later, falling to Hofstra 70-61 in the CAA Tournament Championship, falling just short of an NCAA Tournament berth, but it was clear that Walters’ time was coming. He finished the season with career-highs across the board with 7.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.8 steals per game. 

    “That was the first year I came into my own in the sense that I was one of the older people within the program and helping the team get to where we did,” Walters said. “I embraced the role that I was given. I was one of the players that was very impactful.” 

    Then, in March of 2020, everything changed. 

    With the world hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA made the decision to cancel all winter and spring championships, leaving Walters in a state of uncertainty, unable to return home to the U.K.

    “I was essentially stuck in America,” Walters said. 

    With his family overseas, Walters decided to go to Maine, staying at Turner’s house and having to communicate with his loved ones virtually. 

    “Thank God for FaceTime,” he said. “I don’t know what I would’ve done 20 years ago if there wasn’t FaceTime.” 

    In the midst of a global pandemic, Walters returned to Northeastern for the 2020-21 season, starting in all 17 games played, leading his teammates through two COVID pauses and reaching double figures in points on nine separate occasions. 

    Walters finished the 2020-21 season with career-highs in points (10.5), rebounds (6.6), assists (2.7), steals (1.2) and blocks (0.3). Perhaps most notably, Walters shot a career-high 38.2 percent from beyond the arc, improving his mark of 29.1 percent the prior season. 

    Despite his success, this offseason, Walters, like the thousands of other college basketball prospects, entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal. 

    For the second time in three years, Walters was exploring alternative routes to round out his college career. However, when it came time to decide between returning to Northeastern or departing for another university, Walters was done venturing into the unknown.

    “It wasn’t worth leaving unless I really knew what I was getting into,” he said. “It wasn’t worth walking back into the unknown.” 

    And now, as Walters enters his senior season at Northeastern, expectations are the highest they’ve been in his career. With the opportunity to firmly place his name on NBA Draft boards this season, Walters is just as motivated as he’s always been. 

    “If there’s one thing that’s remained the same, it’s just working hard,” he said. “I want to be remembered as a competitor, a hard worker and by any means I’ll do what it takes to win.”

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