By Kacie McMahon
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Nathan Walkup was given a significant role on the Texas A&M basketball team after senior guard Derrick Roland was injured in December. His place in Aggieland was not by chance, but rather a story of fate.
The junior from Houston, Texas was born into a family of Aggies and attended many Texas A&M athletic events growing up.
“I wanted to come here to be a student more than anything, “Walkup said. “I never even thought about playing college basketball until my junior year of high school.”
After improving his game at Deer Park High School under mentor and coach Billy Carlisle, Walkup was recruited by several colleges, including Mark Turgeon – the head coach at Wichita State University at the time. Carlisle encouraged Nathan to go to Wichita State, but Walkup didn’t want to leave Texas.
When Turgeon accepted the head coaching position at Texas A&M during Walkup’s senior year of high school, everyone benefitted.
“I wanted to play for [Turgeon] and he came to where I wanted to be,” Walkup said.
In his third season on the Aggie basketball team, the 6-7 forward has made a name for himself.
“Nate Walkup came in as a shooter and has made himself a complete player,” Turgeon said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in Nate. He rebounds well and defends well.”
With Roland’s absence, Walkup has taken on more responsibility.
“Somebody else had to keep stepping up,” Walkup said. “As an individual and as a player, I’ve got to do something to help. I have to get the best stats I can individually that help the team.”
Walkup has the numbers to show that he’s doing his part. His season-high of 16 points and eight rebounds came against Colorado on Jan. 23, just two games after he clinched his previous high of 13 points against Texas.
Walkup has big aspirations for the team this year. The Aggies have advanced to at least the second round of the NCAA tournament four years in a row. This season, a big motivating factor for the team is Roland. They want to win for him as well as for all former Aggies to continue the winning tradition.
“For Jo [Jones], Dominique [Kirk] and Acie [Law] that started the program, we don’t want to be the ones that end it,” Walkup said. “You can’t put pressure on yourself saying that you have to, but when that’s a goal and that’s what everyone wants, you kind of feel like you have to.”
On a personal level, Nathan regularly thinks back to the things that Carlisle taught him to improve his game, including charging drills on a slip-n-slide in the middle of December.
Carlisle passed away during Walkup’s junior season, following Nathan’s best high school basketball game.
“He was just a really great guy and he taught me a lot about basketball,” Walkup said “He helped me mature in a lot of ways from when I was a freshman up until I was a junior. When I’m struggling I kind of take a step back and think of things that he taught me and things that he told me in the past.”
Besides working on his basketball star status, Walkup finds time to watch thirteen different television shows and keep his grades up as a student in the Mays Business School. His family owns a metal fabrication company in Houston that has a job waiting for him when he graduates, but he is also open to an alternative future separate from the family business.
“If life takes me elsewhere then at least I have a finance degree to back it up,” Nathan said.
For now, Walkup focuses on this season while also looking forward to his senior year.
“Maybe more focus will be on next year’s seniors which is kind of exciting but it’s also a responsibility,” Walkup said about the anticipation of his senior season. “It’s kind of a challenge, which I’m looking forward to taking.”