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Illinois Basketball Assistant Coach Preview: Jamall Walker

Walker will be an important part of recruiting for Underwood and co., especially in the St. Louis area.

Jamall Walker is beginning his sixth year as an assistant coach for the Fighting Illini Men’s Basketball team. He came over with John Groce from Ohio University in April 2012, and was retained by Brad Underwood in March.

Walker has made plenty of rounds in the college basketball world. After playing at St. Louis University from 1996-1999, he spent the first few years of the 2000s coaching high school and junior college basketball. His first Division I coaching job was at Ball State, where he was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator from 2005-06. He then spent one year each as an assistant coach in 2007 and 2008 at St. Louis and Murray State, respectively, before joining John Groce’s team at Ohio.

One of Walker’s strengths is on the recruiting side of the game. At Ball State, he was in charge of recruiting Maurice Acker (Hillcrest HS/Hazel Crest, Ill.) who went on to be an All-MAC Freshman Team selection. Walker also helped develop D.J. Cooper (Seton Academy/Chicago, Ill.), who was an All-MAC selection himself.

Walker is best known for his long relationship and involvement with the Jeremiah Tilmon saga. After John Groce was fired following the 2016-17 season and Missouri quickly hired Cuonzo Martin, rumors spread quickly that Martin had his eyes on snagging Walker for the Mizzou staff. Underwood decided to retain Walker, which Illini fans thought would ensure Tilmon’s commitment. Unfortunately, eventually Tilmon asked for a release from his letter of intent and now attends Missouri.

Still, Walker is an important part of the team that Underwood assembled. Although the staff missed out of several big recruits for the 2018 class (Castleton and Nolley especially hurt), nabbing Ayo Dosumni was a huge victory. Additionally, Walker’s collegiate years in St. Louis lend him a special talent for working that part of the state, which has produced quite a bit of talent in recent years. Walker was key to persuading Mark Smith, Illinois’ 2017 Mr. Basketball, to stay home. Smith said that he had “a great relationship” with Walker after he chose Illinois over Duke and Michigan State. Moving forward, Walker will help to continue to establish relationship with St. Louis-area schools and could have a major effect in landing high-level recruits.