Bob Walker entered the Clinton High School Athletics Hall of Fame in two way on Saturday: as both an athlete and as a coach.
However, it almost wasn’t so. After making a team as a sophomore, Walker didn’t see much court time. In fact, he recalls his only two points that year came on a rare roadtrip for him. The team had 18 players and only 15 went on the road and that rarely included Walker.
He went to Cedar Rapids Jefferson, however, and ended up in the game. He stole the ball and made a layup down court for his only two points that season.
So when his junior year rolled around, he wasn’t planning on doing it again.
“To me, it’s the power of coaches and the effect they and teachers have on our lives,” Walker said. “It was the hallways between Yourd Gym and the school and they came up to me and asked why aren’t you out for basketball.
“They said you should go out, you’ll have fun playing on the junior varsity team. So I thought, that’s all I needed. Just a little encouragement from somebody.”
After joining the team late, he laughed about not getting the practice uniform in time for the team picture and standing out of the black clad team in his white t-shirt.
Walker played junior varsity, starting for the team and making an impression fast. He moved up to the first sub on the varsity bench.
When a starting guard was out with a sprained ankle, Walker got to start for the first time. The 0-8 River Kings ended up beating the No. 5 ranked Cedar Rapids Washington team that night, and Walker secured a starting position.
Before graduating in 1966, Walker flourished on the basketball court. He averaged 20.2 points per game his senior year, making 1st Team All State Honors.
“Without those coaches just giving me a little encouragement and being a coach who knows how important it is to be positive, I wouldn’t be here today,” Walker said. “There’s no way.”
He took his skills to junior college first, attending Clinton Community College for two years and earning two All-Regional honors. He moved on to Winona State university and continued playing basketball while earning two degrees.
Walker coached at the high school level before retuning to Clinton Community College to take the head coach job in 1981. He took four teams to the NJCAA National Tournament, earning multiple coaching honors in the process.
He wasn’t finished there, retuning from retirement in 2009 to return to his own high school. He said when he was asked, he asked his wife if he thought he should do it.
“Her first remarks were you can’t talk to high school kids like you talk to college kids,” Walker said.
He ended up agreeing, taking over the high school varsity boys basketball team for a season, leading the team to an appearance in the state tournament.
“I’ll tell you what, what a way to end an athletic and coaching career,” Walker said. “I was very fortunate to have Jake Mangler, David Johnson and Devan Douglas and all those other guys. It was a fantastic way to end my career and I’m very lucky CHS made it for me.”
Back to retirement, Walker remains in Clinton with his wife.
“Everything about CHS has made me what I am today,” Walker said. “Once a River King, always a River King.”