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Archive for Saturday, April 29, 2006

Walters ready to work

Former KU guard officially takes over at Florida Atlantic

April 29, 2006

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Rex Walters' bid to become Florida Atlantic University's head basketball coach was bolstered by a job recommendation from his former boss - Matt Doherty.

"Rex has experiences that no other college coach in the country has," Doherty said Friday, the day the 36-year-old Walters was named new SMU coach Doherty's successor at the Boca Raton, Fla., school.

"All-American at Kansas, Final Four participant, played in the NBA and in Europe and was exposed to the coaching expertise of Hall of Famers Roy Williams, Pat Riley, Larry Brown and Chuck Daly. He has a resume that is unmatched in college basketball," Doherty added.

Doherty, a former Kansas University assistant, not only coached off-guard Walters during the 1992-93 season at KU, but worked with him last season - Walters serving as FAU's associate head coach and lead recruiter.

"Rex was one of my favorite players because he was so focused on being a great player and helping his team win. He was one of the best competitors I've been around," Doherty said. "He was an excellent assistant because he could recruit and coach. He is such a bright basketball mind, plus he is highly organized."

The Owls went 15-13 (including a 14-6 league mark, best in school history) in Doherty's only season in Boca Raton.

He and Walters brought in 12 players in two recruiting classes, making the decision to promote Walters a relatively easy one, for continuity's sake.

"Rex has the drive and commitment it takes to make the Florida Atlantic men's basketball program consistently competitive with the best in the nation," school president Frank Brogan said Friday. "His discipline, passion for excellence and desire to be the best makes Rex the right candidate to continue building a great program."

Walters, who had his parents on hand at a Friday news conference as well as wife Deanna and children Addison (9), Drew (7), Riley (4) and Gunner (2), sees great success for the program, which moves into the Sun Belt Conference next season.

"This is a great day for me and my family," Walters said. "I am so excited to take over the reins for Matt Doherty and will continue to build this program until we take our place among the best in college basketball.

"The foundation has been set," Walters added. "Coach Doherty did it and I would like to think we helped. The players buying into our philosophy helped. Coach Doherty is an unbelievable man and I appreciate him so much. He is putting up a fence around the state of Texas (in recruiting) and I am going to put up a fence around the state of Florida.

"I want FAU men's basketball to be a perennial power. One shot at the NCAA Tournament is not what I want. I want to be there every year."

Walters, who was known as a fierce competitor at KU, said, "our team will give their best effort every night. How will we do it? A lot of the same ways we did it last year. We will be the best-conditioned team. What I learned from Miami and Kansas and from here, we will be the best-prepared team. We are going to be unselfish - a great unselfish team with great team leadership."

Prior to coming to FAU, Walters served as an assistant coach at Valparaiso for two seasons. Following his graduation from KU, he played in the NBA seven seasons, including three with the Miami Heat.

"Rex is a wonderful person and will do a great job as head coach," said former KU coach Roy Williams, now coach at North Carolina. "His competitiveness and his work ethic is something the Florida Atlantic players and fans will really love. He will be outstanding."

Homer Drew, head coach at Valparaiso, added: "His knowledge of the game from both his collegiate and professional career and his ability to relate with young people give him a distinct advantage as a coach."

Walters showed his ability to communicate his first day on the job, addressing his players at the news conference:

"When you leave to go home, you better work your tail off this summer," Walters, a native of San Jose, Calif., told the Owls. "There's a big challenge ahead of us. I want you to know that I'm going to thank you now, but I'm going to kick you in your rear if you don't work hard."

Walters has added returning assistant Mike Balado to his staff. He will name additional assistants in coming weeks.

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2 and 4 rule gone: The NCAA presidents this week made it official, doing away with the 2-in-4 rule that limited teams to playing two exempt tournaments every four years. It paves the way for KU to play in the Las Vegas Invitational.

KU will play Ball State on Nov. 24 and Florida on Nov. 25 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Prior to that, the Jayhawks will meet Hartford on Nov. 19 and Tennessee State on Nov. 21 at Allen Fieldhouse. Ticket information is not yet available.

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