Column: Minnesota should continue to start Walker

by David Nelson

Redshirt senior Mo Walker made his fourth consecutive start on Saturday as the Gophers faced off against Maryland-Baltimore County.

The Canadian center has started every game this season, even though the decision in the first game might have been a head-scratcher for some, as it left last year’s starting center Elliott Eliason sitting on the bench.

But after four solid performances by Walker, it seems as though head coach Richard Pitino made the right choice.

Walker put up 15 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked five shots in the victory over UMBC.

Pitino said he likes Eliason coming off the bench, which is perfect because Walker has more than proven his capabilities as a starter.

At this point, Walker might be the best offensive player for the Gophers.

Walker averages nearly 12 points per contest and has led Minnesota in scoring twice this season.

He’s posted these numbers while playing an average of 18 minutes per game.

Though no one questioned Walker’s offensive production heading into the season, poor defensive showings might have made a few people wonder why he’s starting.

So far, though, Walker’s physicality in the paint and lateral quickness helped keep opposing centers at bay.

In addition to the five blocks, he has also contributed seven steals during the four-game span.

“I think we’re doing a great job in the press and … we’re really being aggressive out there,” Walker said after the team’s win over UMBC.

That defensive aggressiveness has allowed the Gophers to outscore opponents by an average of 20 points this season.

Heading into the season, it seemed like Walker would serve as the sparkplug off the bench for Minnesota when they needed an offensive boost.

Walker came off the bench and scored 18 points in last year’s take down of then-No. 9 Wisconsin, pulling down nine rebounds in an 81-68

Gophers fans this season have seen that version of Walker re-emerge, as he has dominated opposing teams’ big men.

Walker has seemingly transformed himself from a second or third scoring option to one of Minnesota’s primary point producers.

He scored eight points in the first 11 minutes of Saturday’s contest, helping Minnesota keep up with the Retrievers.

In the NIT Season Tip-Off this weekend, the Gophers will play tougher opponents and will need its starting center to continue that kind of performance.

But with the way Walker has been playing, there should be no reason to suspect he won’t continue to impress.