Oakland’s final transfer to debut at Washington

Martez Walker said not being able to compete in a real basketball game for the last year and a half was the “worst feeling [he] ever had in [his] life.”

But tonight (4:30 p.m. ET) when the Golden Grizzlies take on Washington in Seattle, the feeling will be no more.

Walker will suit up in a black and gold jersey for the first time since transferring to Oakland from the University of Texas in January.

Becoming eligible has been an obstacle-filled task for the redshirt sophomore and his debut has been highly anticipated, although the circumstances surrounding his transfer were controversial.

Roots buried in Detroit

Oakland was no stranger to Walker, a Pershing High School graduate who the program recruited for three years.

In his last two years at Pershing playing alongside current Oakland teammates Kay Felder and Sherron Dorsey-Walker, Martez Walker and the team dominated the Detroit Public School League.

His senior year, he averaged over 20 points per game and led the Doughboys to a 25-1 record, with their only loss coming during the Class A state semifinal.

According to Oakland head coach Greg Kampe, the recruiting battle for Walker looked as though it was going to fall in Oakland’s favor. That was until the then-head coach at Texas and one of Kampe’s friends, Rick Barnes, asked Kampe if Walker was capable of playing for the Longhorns.

Kampe said that although he wanted Walker at Oakland, he believes in friendship in the recruiting business. He told Barnes that Walker was talented enough to play for the Longhorns.

Walker signed with Texas in May 2013.

“He went there and he had a turbulent first semester, trying to fit in,” Kampe said. “You took an innercity kid, which is why I thought he should come here, and [transplanted] him from that and threw him into Austin, Texas.”

His freshman year, Walker played in 33 games and the Longhorns finished with a 24-11 record, which included an NCAA tournament bid.

In his first tournament game, Walker scored a season-high 16 points in Texas’ 87-85 victory over Arizona State. The Longhorns post-season run ended after they fell to Michigan in the third round.

The path out of Texas

Walker’s departure from Austin came after the university announced his withdrawal on Oct. 9, 2014, following accusations of assault with intent to injure – a Class A misdemeanor.  

The assault accusations made by his then-girlfriend, which were detailed in an affidavit filed on Sept. 10, prompted Barnes to indefinitely suspend Walker from team activities.

In addition, the university also suspended Walker from campus. But according to a Travis County affidavit, on Sept. 16, Walker was arrested for criminal trespassing after he was found in the San Jacinto Dormitory on campus.

While these events were unfolding, Kampe was in the process of organizing his fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, which involved some of the top NCAA coaches in the nation. Kampe said he contacted Barnes about the event, and Barnes told him they weren’t going to be able to keep Walker at Texas.

After receiving the release form and having discussion with Barnes, the lawyer on the case and Walker’s high school coach, Kampe decided to bring Walker to play at Oakland.

He was required to pay for his own schooling, which he did. Walker has been enrolled every semester – winter, summer and fall – since he arrived at Oakland. Kampe said he is in good academic standing and is on pace to graduate.

Kampe also told him he must be proven innocent of the charges, and this meant no plea bargains.

On March 27, a Travis County Court judge dismissed both charges based on the recommendation of an assistant prosecuting attorney “in the interest of justice.”

Walker was also required to attend counseling.

“The counseling was for some of the things he experienced upon his exit, not necessarily because of anything we believed that led up to the incident at Texas. We wanted to make sure he was okay in the aftermath in that kind of media scrutiny,” Director of Athletics Jeff Konya said.  

“From our perspective, we just wanted his mind and his body to be right and give him the best chance to be successful with what is being asked of him, which also included to be academically eligible.”

The media scrutiny didn’t just include local news outlets – Walker spent a few days on the front page of ESPN.com.

The assault and trespassing accusations weren’t the only controversy Walker was wrapped up in. Accusations were made against former University of Texas athletes and Walker in a report written by the Chronicle of Higher Education on June 10.

Of the three accused students, only Martez was currently in college – the other two, P.J. Tucker and J’Covan Brown, had went pro. Kampe and Konya said the department immediately followed the proper protocol upon hearing of the accusations.

“As soon as the article came out, we contacted the Horizon League and the NCAA. After interviewing [Walker], we also hired ourselves a consultant who interacts with the NCAA on these kinds of cases,” Konya said.

“When the NCAA came in and had the conversation with Martez, they ultimately concluded that there was no academic dishonesty as far as they were concerned.”

‘We just opened our arms.’

Kampe doesn’t view Walker as a second-chance kid. He views him as a “wrongly accused” kid with potential, as a person and a basketball player – a kid who is understanding and likeable, but needs some guidance.

He added that he’s had to jump through several hoops for Walker, but he did it because he wanted to help Walker pick up the pieces.

“He’s still a kid we’re here to educate,” Kampe said. “And that’s our job. That’s this university’s job – to educate and get people out of here where they can make an impact in life.”

He said that although he had sympathy for Walker, his top priority throughout the process of bringing him to Oakland was maintaining the university’s integrity. Every hoop jumped through for Walker was “a hoop of integrity.”

“In [Walker’s] case, what has not been shared with the public to date is that we have submitted waivers for the betterment of his student-athlete experience at Oakland,” Konya said.

“We got a waiver accepted for him to travel to Spain with the team on a foreign tour and another waiver that allowed him to receive athletic financial assistance for this term.”

The final waiver for Walker was to allow him to compete in the non-conference part of the season beginning today. 

As for Walker, it’s obvious that he’s happier and more comfortable at Oakland.

“I feel more at home, I felt like I’ve been loved again because down there, I feel like you’re just out there by yourself with nobody to look to when you’re down,” Walker said. “I got somebody to look to now.”

He said he’s looking forward to returning to the court and that he just wants to play hard. Kampe said he expects him to be a major role player on the team this year.

“This kid played with Felder, played with [Dorsey-Walker] so he’s like family,” Kampe said.

“We just opened our arms.”