Marquette Rewind - Timely Phone Call Led To Walton's Career at Marquette

Feb. 15, 2010

Milwaukee -

By Dan McGrath

A well-timed phone call altered the course of Marquette basketball history.

Lloyd Walton had just completed an All-America freshman season at Moberly Junior College in Iowa and did well enough in the classroom to ensure that a Division I university would be his next stop.

Walton, a former Mount Carmel High School star, was home in Chicago sorting out his options. He was leaning toward Jacksonville University---he had completed arrangements for a visit and was about to leave for the airport when the phone rang.

Al McGuire was on the line.

“If I’d got on that plane, I was gone,” Walton recalled. “Coach Al asked me not to commit to anybody until they had a chance to talk to me. An hour and a half later, Rick Majerus showed up at my house with a pizza. We visited for a while, and then Rick drove me up to Marquette and I wound up signing.”

One of the most successful three-year runs in school history would follow.

As a sophomore in 1973-74, 6-foot point guard Walton joined senior Marcus Washington in the backcourt on a Maurice Lucas-led team that reached the Final Four, losing to North Carolina State and David Thompson in the NCAA title game. Sophomore Earl Tatum and freshman Bo Ellis were the other starters.

As a junior, Walton averaged 15.1 points and 5.9 assists as the Warriors went 23-3 in the regular season, only to draw eventual runner-up Kentucky in the then-unseeded NCAA tournament. They went out in the first round.

As a senior, Walton teamed with Butch Lee in the backcourt on one of the best teams in Marquette history. A December loss at Minnesota was the Warriors’ only regular-season blemish, and they were ranked No. 2 in the country heading into the tournament. Wins over Western Kentucky and Western Michigan set up a meeting with top-ranked Indiana in the Mideast Regional final, and the Hoosiers prevailed 65-56 en route to the national championship and a perfect season, the last one in NCAA history.



Marquette, of course, would win it all the following season.

“Just my luck---the year after I left,” Walton said.

Marquette was 76-11 over his three seasons. He averaged 11.5 points and 5.5 assists and was known as an unselfish playmaker, thriving under a coach who encouraged self-expression.

“Coach Al and I … we went back and forth, but I loved the man,” Walton said. “In some respects, Marquette might not have been the best fit for me. We walked it up, ran a lot of halfcourt stuff, and my style was more up and down. But when I think about the coaches I played for, the people I met there---I have no regrets.”

A third-round draft choice of the Milwaukee Bucks, Walton averaged 4.2 points and 3.6 assists over five NBA seasons. Now 57, he’s still involved with the league, as a career counselor for the NBA Players Association. He makes his home in Chicago but is on the road frequently, as he is responsible for 10 teams.

Part of the job involves helping the league’s youngsters avoid the temptations of free time and lots of money, but he also emphasizes the importance of career planning to older players.

“A lot of guys are through playing in their early 30s,” Walton said. “There’s life after basketball. You’ve got to be ready for it.”

Dan McGrath will provide a series of men's basketball features exclusive to all season long. McGrath is sports coordinator of the Chicago News Cooperative and former sports editor of the Chicago Tribune. He is a proud 1972 graduate of Marquette University.


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