OSU basketball: Rondel Walker lives out vision in home debut, says 'gamedays got a different type of swagger'
STILLWATER — Rondel Walker first stepped into Gallagher-Iba Arena as a young freshman at Putnam West High School.
He dreamt of big moments on the floor. He hoped he could get an ovation as he headed to the bench with a comfortable fourth-quarter lead.
Saturday night, those things happened in his first game at the famed arena.
Walker delivered a big first half — lifting his team when its leaders were in foul trouble — and then he closed the game with a flurry of 3-pointers.
And he left to a loud ovation from the scattered crowd with the Cowboys en route to an 85-65 win over Texas Southern.
“Gamedays got a different type of swagger, a different type of feeling,” Walker said. “I was just glad I could be out there and enjoy the moment with my guys.”
On the biggest night of Walker’s incredibly short career, he debuted in front of OSU fans in grand fashion. He scored 19 points and grabbed three rebounds off the bench while providing a huge spark in key moments.
It was exactly why OSU coach Mike Boynton started recruiting Walker early in high school.
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He’s got confidence along with a relentless motor on both ends of the court. That showed throughout the night.
First, he had a putback on an offensive rebound. Later, entered in a tight game and immediately impacted the game on defense, hounding Texas Southern guards in aggressive traps.
Then, he got going offensively.
With 3:41 remaining in the half, Walker attacked the basket. His layup was good and he could hardly contain his excitement as he slid on his back. He pumped his fist and yelled.
He then made his free shot.
Two minutes later, he completed another three-point play.
The layups all happened with star freshman Cade Cunningham on the bench with three fouls and leader Isaac Likekele hampered on the floor with two fouls himself.
An eight-point lead when Cunningham left increased to 11 in five minutes.
“It’s just a time that’s going to happen throughout the season — not just with those two,” Walker said. “It’s just one of those things that you tell yourself and the guys out there with you that we’re just as good and out there for a reason, too. So, no drop off.”
Walker, who had 10 points in the opening half, remained hot in the second half, this time with Cunningham — his former AAU teammate — on the floor.
Cunningham found Walker three times in the corner. Walker made three 3-pointers in less than three minutes. By then, OSU had a 21-point lead.
“I think he and Cade might have a little bit of chemistry,” Boynton said.
Walker struggled in Wednesday’s opener at Texas-Arlington, failing to attempt a shot and grabbing only a rebound in 11 minutes.
Boynton still believed in his young guard.
Boynton raved about Walker in the preseason, saying it would be hard to keep Walker off the court. He practices well and that carries over.
So his performance wasn’t a shock.
But it certainly was special.
“It felt good,” Walker said. “It being my first home game in my home state, that made it so much better.”