Archive for Monday, July 31, 2006

Walters piecing FAU together

July 31, 2006

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— Former Kansas University standout Rex Walters talks slowly, never taking his eyes off the players at the Price Chopper K.C. Prep Invitational.

The Florida Atlantic coach might have spent seven seasons in the NBA, but he's not looking for the next Rex Walters.

"I want better players than me. If I get players like me, I'm going to be in trouble," the first-year coach said. "(Former KU) Coach (Roy) Williams made me a good player."

The 36-year-old Walters is hoping now to bring out the best in his own players, taking over the Florida Atlantic program four months ago after Matt Doherty accepted a position at SMU.

"It's been a lot of fun," Walters said. "We're trying to piece things together and get the right type of kids, kids that can hopefully suit the style that we'd like to play."

After playing for Williams, Larry Brown, Chuck Daly and Pat Riley in his career, Walters had quite a few successful philosophies from which to choose.

The plan, though, is for his 2006 Florida Atlantic Owls to look much like the early 1990s' Jayhawks.

"I would like to play the same way I played when I was at Kansas," Walters said. "We want to get up and down. We like to get into people defensively."

Which has made the recruiting task more difficult for Walters. Not only is he looking for good kids - he's looking for kids who can play.

"We need a point guard that can defend like an Adonis Jordan, like a Jacque Vaughn," Walters said. "Those guys aren't easy to find."

Especially when you're representing Florida Atlantic, a school that is still better sold by its beaches than its basketball.

Doherty started to change that last year, leading the Owls to a 15-13 mark and a school-record 14 conference victories.

The task won't be as easy this year, as FAU moves from the Atlantic Sun Conference to the more competitive Sun Belt.

Walters' hope is to build a program just as he saw Williams do.

"At Kansas, at North Carolina, he's kind of like the model," Walters said. "For me, I just think that's the way it should be done. Get good players and good students that have high character. That's important."

Walters still keeps in touch with many of his teammates, including Steve Woodberry, who was at the same Price Chopper tournament as a coach for K.C. Pump N Run.

A few others include Eric Pauley, who now lives in St. Louis, and Richard Scott, who continues to play professionally in Spain.

Walters has also kept close tabs on the current Jayhawk team.

"They're very talented," Walters said. "Coach Self has done a great job recruiting. I appreciate more what he's gone through the last two years."

That's because the former guard also experienced an early tournament loss, as his 1991-92 Kansas team fell to UTEP in the second round after going 27-4 and earning a No. 1 seed.

"Coach Self is going to get it done - he's been getting it done," Walters said. "He's going to take us to an even higher level."

¢Former KU assistant Ben Miller was also at the tournament, scouting players as an assistant for Missouri State.

Miller was an aide at Kansas from 1998 to 2003.

¢K.C. Pump N Run's Tyrel Reed said his laundry list of schools is about to be trimmed.

"As soon as this tournament gets over with, I'm going to start narrowing it down and deciding where I'm going to set up my visits in the fall," Reed said.

The Burlington High product is considering many Big 12 and ACC schools, including KU, UNC, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Wake Forest and others.

¢The Illinois Warriors will meet Athletes First in the Price Chopper K.C. Prep championship today at noon.

Athletes First is led by Blake Griffin, who has verbally committed to Oklahoma.

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