Former Springfield basketball standout Dalaino Walker has found a new college basketball home.
The ex-Tiffin forward announced his transfer to DII Auburn University at Montgomery on Wednesday. Walker played for the Yellow Jackets from 2013-17 and was the Robertson County Boys Basketball Player of the Year in 2016.
After two seasons at Cleveland State Community College, Walker signed with Tiffin last spring. But in the team’s first exhibition game against IUPUI, Walker tore the posterior labrum in his right shoulder. He spent the rest of the season on the bench and decided to make another change.
“After seeing their system and stuff, I decided to transfer,” he said. “As I was exploring my options, (AUM assistant) coach (Bailey) McEwen and head coach (Michael Cheaney) kept calling me and made me feel like I was at home through the phone, basically.”
Part of their sales pitch included sending pictures of the school and offering phone calls with professors since campus visits were not permitted during the COVID-19 shutdown. The strategy worked on Walker, who was excited to return to the Southeast and play closer to home.
Walker has petitioned the NCAA for a medical redshirt and expects to play two seasons at Auburn Montgomery. He will be immediately eligible.
The 2016-17 District 10-AAA MVP underwent shoulder surgery in November, split his rehab time between Tiffin and Elite Sports Medicine in Nashville, and was officially cleared in early May. He has slowly eased back into basketball activities over the last several months.
“I started shooting again in late January and early February,” Walker said. “I kind of started lifting weight a few weeks after my therapy, but it was just some small lifting like five or 10 pounds.”
Walker played a limited role at Cleveland State as a freshman in 2016-17, averaging 7.7 points and 5.4 rebounds. But he broke out the following year and was named TCCAA First Team All-Conference and took MVP honors at the 2019 TCCAA tournament, which the Cougars won with a 70-58 victory over Roane State.
He credited the Cleveland State coaching staff for helping him boost his production (15.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game) and earn a DII roster spot.
“Coach (Rafael) Howard and Coach Lee (Cigliano) helped me develop my game in all aspects,” Walker said. “My first year I had a role of defending and rebounding and sometimes shooting, but I took a bigger role my sophomore year.”
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound swingman has dreams of playing professionally in Europe. Whenever his basketball career ends, he plans to use his criminal justice degree to join the CIA, U.S. Marshals or become a corrections officer.
Walker has been training in Springfield since Tiffin let out for spring break in late February. Although he has made strides over three seasons of college hoops, Walker is working to improve his ball handling, passing and shooting ahead of arriving in Montgomery this August.
“I feel like my game is a whole lot better now,” he said. “From watching and working with (college) coaches and training, my game is 10 times better. But it’s still not where I think that I should be. There’s still room to grow.”