It was an extremely fierce back and forth battle between the Fraport Skyliners and the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg this season in Frankfurt up to halftime, but in the third quarter, Frankfurt started to pull away leading 72-63 and it looked like the game flow and result would go as usual at home for the 2004 BBL champion with a win, but there was a reddish/blond player who had other ideas on the court. He had a trim and in control beard that wasn´t as out of control as at SF Austin two years ago and unruly like a Sergio Rodriguez. The player that did the damage and heroics for the MHP Riesen was American Thomas Walkup who had grown an outrageous big beard in his senior season at SF Austin during the NCAA run and still smiles today when he is reminded about it. “I don´t miss anything about it, but it was awesome while I had it. It was my trademark then even it was more of a joke. It was fun while it lasted, but that had it´s time in college”, added Thomas Walkup. The American had had some huge games in the BBL this season against Alba Berlin and Science City Jena with 22 points apiece, but what he performed in Frankfurt was his best game as a professional in Germany. He led his team on a 15-1 run to get back into the game and closed out the game in Jordan like or Curry like fashion putting seemingly his own special like patent on the word scoring in bunches and scoring his team´s last five baskets in a row and making his name not so quickly forgotten in the Fraport arena. He finished with an amazing 27 points on the night the most he has had as a player in Europe, but also displayed his usual versatile game and filled up the stat sheet with eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. He probably served up Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert added mind games that evening wondering why he may not have had him on the radar like a John Patrick may have last summer. The amazing thing with Walkup´s points at the end, was that they weren´t mostly open shots, but difficult shots and plays where he had to show his wonderful one on one and scoring in traffic abilities. His scoring was top, he helped out where it hurts most on the boards, made big defensive plays and yes put a little breath of Larry Bird into the arena with his precise and beautiful passing. On one play he had the ball on the sideline and without flinching quickly gunned the ball inside to an open David Mccray for the easy lay up before the Frankfurt defense could even react. “That was a good pass. We had a mix up on defense. He had the sense to figure out before he got the ball to make the pass when he got it”, stressed Philip Scrubb who is a fine passer himself. That pass also proved that he has a very good basketball IQ and sense where his teammates are. The 88-80 win against Frankfurt was just one of so many games this season where the American has shown his brilliant basketball abilities and the guy is on a mission. Even if he was careful in his choice of words, Walkup is a major competitor and knows exactly where his basketball future is going. ““The basketball world is so connected that you can play anywhere in Europe and still be on a NBA team´s radar. I am playing good ball now after not playing as well last season. I will just continue to keep working and see where it takes me”, warned Thomas Walkup. “We have played a lot of games this season and Tom has been a scoring machine in a lot of them. Against Frankfurt he carried the team through the fourth quarter on offense. He showed how big of an impact he can make on a game”, stressed teammate and roommate at road games Adam Waleskowski. Walkup pretty much knows where he wants to go, but first he has to take care of business with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg before the NBA comes calling.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Thomas Walkup after the 88-81 MHP Riesen win where he dropped 27 points
Thomas Walkup is a 25 year old 193cm shooting guard/small forward that was born in Pasadena, Texas. He played his high school ball at Deer Park and already at a young age had to battle injuries as he suffered two ACL injuries, but he got past these hardships with his dedication and hard work. In his senior year, he averaged 25,9ppg and 8,9rpg. Despite these stellar stats, it seemed like there wasn´t so much interest from division one schools, but he always wanted to play in the NCAA tournament so going to the division 2 was never an option for him. He also didn´t seem to be as confident in his game coming out of high school, but his experience at SF Austin would not only change his mentality, but his game. As a freshman he was still learning the ropes at the NCAA level and wasn´t much of a factor averaging only 4.4ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.3apg. However from his sophomore season until the end, he would make big strides in his game being able to improve his scoring, rebounding, assists and steal percentages each season. One could also see his development and consistency in his last three seasons as he not only scored in double figures 80 times in 131 games, but he won the Southland conference title from 2014-2016 and also garnered the MVP award three times.
It is always a special basketball treat when one sees two basketball minds and two top coaches in the easyCredit BBL with Gordon Herbert and John Patrick go head to head on the sidelines and since the 2010-2011 season where Herbert was coach with Alba Berlin and the Fraport Skyliners while Patrick was head coach with BG Goettingen, Wurzburg and now Ludwigsburg, the two have had some intense battles as the current record stands at 10-10. Herbert won the first five duels, but Patrick is 10-5 since that first season where Frankfurt had BG Goettingen´s number. But not only watching the best two coaches bark the commands and witness how the players execute is a delight, but also seeing each team´s best player go head to head. That unfortunately didn´t happen in the return game in Frankfurt as Thomas Walkup was on the court, but Frankfurt´s best player Philip Scrubb was not. One can argue all day long as to who are each team´s best players, but these two surely would get a good share of the votes. Scrubb showed as a rookie two seasons ago why many in Canada called him the best Canadian college player ever as his high IQ, scoring and passing game made many Skyliner fans´s two hour basketball experience a very enjoyable time. This season Scrubb heightened his game as Frankfurt was hit with the injury bug and he had to really show his scoring gene and did being the leagues top scorer, but a knee injury put him out of action again. The MHP Riesen have many talented players, but of all Thomas Walkup may go the farthest. He came from a lesser known school SF Austin, but made a name of himself scoring 33 points against West Virginia and 22 points in his last NCAA game against Notre Dame. Many basketball experts saw him as a guy that could fit the mold of the New look NBA as a versatile player that can do a bit of everything which isn´t always appreciated from clubs at that level, but the American impressed. “The basketball world is so connected that you can play anywhere in Europe and still be on a NBA team´s radar. I am playing good ball now after not playing as well last season. I will just continue to keep working and see where it takes me”, warned Thomas Walkup. But instead of landing in the NBA, he played a season with the Windy City Bulls (D-League) playing 40 games averaging 7.6ppg, 3.9rpg, 3.4apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 53.4%, 3PT: 28.2%, FT: 84.5%.. He put the NBA on the back burner and is concentrating on his game and help Ludwigsburg get a title. He has put up impressive stats as he understands how to fill the stat sheet and really has improved his shooting from downtown averaging 42% in the BBL and BCL competitions. Not only his stellar all-around play has rubbed off on his teammates, but also his winning mentality that has allowed them to be an early BCL title candidate and his hidden strength of having that important winning mentality also has been key. In the first meeting with the Fraport Skyliners, the MHP Riesen toppled Frankfurt 79-62 as he led all scorers with 19 points and while they keyed in on Scrubb limiting him to six points on 1/7 shooting. The Fraport Skyliners had a lot of revenge on their minds as they welcomed the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg into their living room and for three quarters looked like they might win, but couldn´t handle Thomas Walkup as he stole the show from Tai Webster pouring in 27 points and scored 12 of the last 14 Ludwigsburg points propelling them to the come from behind 88-81 win.
Thomas Walkup is a 25 year old 193cm guard from Pasadena, Texas playing his first season with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg. He played his rookie season with the Windy City Bulls (D-League) playing 40 games averaging 7.6ppg, 3.9rpg, 3.4apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 53.4%, 3PT: 28.2%, FT: 84.5%. He played at SF Austin (NCAA) from 2012-2016 playing a total of 133 NCAA games. In his senior season he played 34 games averaging 18.1ppg, 6.9rpg, 4.5apg, 2.1spg, FGP: 62.7%, 3PT: 25.6%, FT: 81.7%. He spoke to German Hoops before the game against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg in Oldenburg.
Thomas, thanks for talking to German Hoops. Last season you were in the States for Christmas and New year playing in the D-League, but this season playing in Germany a day before Christmas and playing after New Years. Are you a fan of this type of schedule or would you rather have that special time with family and friends?
Spending time with the family is always very special. I was lucky to have my family visit me on December 26th. But at the same time this is my job and you have to make sacrifices and you have to be ready to play.
The NBA is the goal of every player, but after a season in the G-League, you decided to put it on hold and come to Europe. How vital has the signing with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg been considering how well the season is going for the team and your play?
It has been very important. As a player I am reaching my potential here and doing all I can to fit the system. It has been a great fit for me. I really like to play for coach Patrick. The team and coach also fit well and is one of the reasons why we have been successful.