Leicester Riders basketball player Shane Walker has recently made his Commonwealth Games debut for Team England at the Gold Coast. Having had a great year with his club, Shane recently competed in the Play-off final beating London Lions 81-60, winning the BBL season treble. Ahead of the game at the O2 Arena, he chats to us about training, winning league titles and his Gold Coast selection.
When did you start playing for your club Leicester Riders?
This is my third season with the Riders. I have managed to achieve seven trophies in that time with a chance to go for one more on Sunday.
Can you tell us what it’s like winning league and trophy titles with the team?
Winning titles with your team never gets old, each one is as special as the last. You set yourself a bunch of goals at the start of the season. Usually to achieve those goals it takes a LOT of sacrifice. So when you do finally achieve those goals, it’s more of a relief that you didn’t fall short and then an excitement that you have another one to your collection.
How often do you train with them and what does it usually involve?
We train every day. During the season there is normally at least one game a week, sometimes two. So it all depends on scheduling but we will usually get the day after a game off. Training usually involves mobility training to start with along with a warm up. We will then go into basketball-related activities. Once that has finished, we will then watch a video either of us, or our opponents for that week. Then, depending on the day, we do a weightlifting session with our trainer.
You made your Commonwealth Games debut earlier this year as part of Team England, how did this go?
Commonwealth Games was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Every aspect of it was world class and I will be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to go. I advise anyone who may get an opportunity to compete for their country, or if you are able to obtain a passport from another country, to do it. Sport has given me the opportunity to travel the world, which I am humbled by.
What was it like being selected for the Commonwealth Games?
To be selected for the Commonwealth Games was one of the most amazing plus nerve-racking experiences of my life. They called us all in for separate meetings at random times so nobody knew what was going on. Once I realised I was selected, it was the biggest sigh of relief. I was so excited, I wanted to tell the world, but we had to hold off for it to be officially announced so I couldn’t post it on my Instagram or anything, which was annoying. But I’m so thankful for the whole Commonwealth experience.
How was the experience staying in the athletes village?
This was probably one of my favourite parts of the whole Games. The enviroment that they had set up for us was top class. We had 24-hour food available, access to transport all over the Gold Coast, also with access to massages and sports therapy, it was amazing. To be in a community with everyone competing and co-existing was indescribable, but I am so grateful that I was able to witness it and tell the story for years to come.
What did you do during your time at the Gold Coast when not competing?
While I was not competing or doing things basketball-related, I was taking the time out to venture through the various cities that we were in. Also, I had the goal of seeing as much wildlife as possible, I’m a big fan of nature, so I went to a few sanctuaries and would take the time out to get down to the beaches or go on the hunt for random wildlife. Pretty much every animal over there was different so it was great for me.
Had you played basketball in Australia before or was this your first time?
This was my first time in Australia. It was amazing to be that far from everything that I’ve ever known – the time difference, the weather, the people, the animals, everything was different. It was an awesome learning experience.
Do any of your England teammates play for Leicester Riders?
Yes, I had one teammate on the team, Andy Thomson. It was good to spend some more time with him and I got to see a different side of him which was insightful.
Do you get chance to train with Team England before competitions?
So, unlike a lot of teams at Commonwealth, we didn’t get to train together or play together as much as I would have liked. We had two three-day camps throughout the season. One in November and one in February, when the team was announced. So, six days to get ready was a bit crazy, but we did well considering the fact that we were still in season.
Where did your professional career start?
My professional career started in Greece. It is a highly-rated league throughout Europe and it was a perfect place on paper to start my career. If anyone knows anything about Greece, they know that the country has huge financial issues. I arrived there during this crisis and my salary every month was coming in drips and drabs. Being young and not hip to how to go about the situation professionally, we mutually agreed to part ways. Looking back, that’s not how I would have went about the situation given another chance, but everything happens for a reason.
How did you get into basketball?
Growing up in the UK the main sport has always been football, so I played a lot of football, it was my first love. As I started to get older, I began to grow extremely tall and was advised to start playing basketball. At this point I was around fifteen years old. I ended up going to a basketball camp in the UK for fun with friends and was scouted from there. I was far from the best player at the camp, but because of my height and athleticism, someone saw potential in me. From there I was offered a scholarship to play for a private high school in the States and then go on to play for two of the most prestigious universities in the country.
Was there anyone that inspired you to get into the sport?
As a youngster I was always active, I loved PE at school and lived for Sports Day. As I mentioned before, football was my first love, so I always aspired to be a professional athlete. I was a huge Manchester United fan growing up so anyone on the team at the time was a hero of mine. But also athletes like Ronaldo (Brazil), Shaquille O’Neal (NBA), Michael Johnson (Athletics) and Bruce Lee. I mention Bruce Lee because he inspired me to get into Martial Arts, in which I achieved international success from a young age.
Have you been given any advice that has stuck with you through your career?
I was told by a mentor of mine years ago to always “PLAY HARD, PLAY SMART, HAVE FUN” which has always served me well. I’ve played some of my best basketball when I’ve been focused in on the task at hand but having fun while I’m on the court.
If I was to pass on some advice, it would to be to live your journey. So many times in life we get caught up comparing our journeys with others. Each of our journeys are beautiful and the more we focus and nuture our own personal journey, the more it will flourish like a plant.
What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
The highlight of my career so far was playing for England in the Commonwealth Games, along with the back-to-back trebles we completed this season. With more to come, I’m excited.
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