Basketball season is right around the corner. To prepare you for all things Ohio State women’s basketball, Land-Grant Holy Land is giving you previews for every player on the Scarlet & Gray roster.
Up next is an intriguing offseason addition from the transfer portal. Eboni Walker is a forward who brings experience from two other programs, and a list of amateur basketball accolades. Can Walker be a key piece in an area where Ohio State struggled?
Name: Eboni Walker
High School: Centennial High School (Las Vegas, Nevada)
2021-22 Stats: 4.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.8 apg, .360 FG%, .400 3FG%, .714 FT%
Last season’s statistics for Walker don’t pop off the screen, but there’s a reason. In the forward’s first season with the Syracuse Orange, Walker played in only six games for the ACC side before suffering an undisclosed season-ending injury.
Before that injury, Walker struggled to make it into the starting five for a side that was dealing with a whole slew of issues in leadership. On Aug. 2, 2021, only a few months before the start of the season, head coach Quentin Hillsman resigned from his position after Syracuse received allegations of bullying and improper behavior.
Because of his actions, 12 players transferred out of Syracuse, with Walker entering a program in disarray. Not exactly the best environment to make a first impression.
Prior to Walker’s move East, she played two seasons in the competitive Pac-12 for the Arizona State Sun Devils. With Arizona in the 2020-21 season, Walker began earning starts as a sophomore and showed the flashes that made her the 43rd-ranked prospect in the country in the 2019 class.
Walker had nine starts in 22 appearances, averaging 7.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. In those games, when the competition rose, so did Walker’s game. Against the likes of Naismith Player of the Year Sabrina Ionescu’s Oregon Ducks and Aari McDonald’s Arizona Wildcats, Walker scored above her average, hitting eight points twice and a season-high 12 points against in-state rivals Arizona.
What to Expect
In Walker, head coach Kevin McGuff adds another versatile player who can fill his 5-Out offensive tactics. In simple teams, the 5-Out system begins with every player standing outside of the three-point line, with any of the five having the ability to be dangerous from deep or move inside the paint.
Looking at Walker’s game, it looks a lot like that of Braxtin Miller, a leader on the Buckeyes last season who finished her NCAA eligibility. Walker can muscle inside the paint through defensive and offensive rebounding, averaging 2.8 offensively, good enough for seventh in the Pac-12.
In terms of scoring, Walker can do that too. The 6-foot forward can attack the basket and shoot from deep, hitting 7-for-20 in her final season with Arizona State and 2-for-5 last season with the Orange.
After transferring twice, there’s a lot to prove for the forward who’s coming back from injury. Unlike fellow transfer Taylor Mikesell, Walker doesn’t have the added advantage of in-state recruiting that McGuff had on Ohio State’s star guard.
Speaking of Mikesell, something she said when she announced her return to the Buckeyes is worth noting. McGuff gives players the freedom to showcase their abilities. Walker went from struggling to earn a starting spot for a 25-year coaching legend at Arizona State to a Syracuse program that was on the ropes. Entering a team that’s coming off a title, and is in need of presence in the paint with Miller and Tanaya Beacham’s careers ending, Walker has the ability to shine.
With that said, nothing that Walker does this year would come as a surprise. Whether it's coming off the bench with energy like Beacham did so well or pushing her way into a starting roster spot, the spectrum for Walker’s impact is wide.
Given that space to flourish in McGuff’s system, Walker has space to return to the form that made her a top-50 prospect in the country. After all, she did average a double-double in her 2019 Player of the Year season. Having somebody who can score, grab rebounds, and dish out assists makes Walker a name to watch.
On Tuesday, McGuff also said there’s an open competition across the board. While some of that does sound like keeping things broad in the media, because guards Madison Greene, Jacy Sheldon, and Mikesell feel like as big of locks for a starting spot as anyone on the team, the forward area has space for fluidity.
Not only the aforementioned departures, but the position was already thin last year. Expect Walker and returning sophomore Taylor Thierry to compete for the starting four position.