Coach Walker Battles Cancer One Free Throw At a Time
Before attempting his 24-day free-throw shooting marathon to raise money and awareness for cancer research, Moravian College head men’s basketball coach Jim Walker approached the challenge like any good academic: with solid research.
“I’ve never done anything like this,” Walker explained Monday, Jan. 27, a week into his marathon. “So, I started by doing some research. I wanted to know how long someone was able to shoot free throws straight. One guy made 18,000 in 24 hours. Another guy made 5,200 in a row in seven hours. Someone else even attempted 59 in just 60 seconds, and he only missed like four or five. There are all kinds of records out there.”
His initial plan was to shoot free throws for 24 straight hours, but Walker thought better of pushing himself to such extreme measures. After a series of dry runs testing his stamina and efficiency, Walker settled on one hour a day for 24 days, beginning the week before the National Association of Basketball Coaches vs. Cancer Day at Moravian College on Jan. 25.
With a week under his belt, Walker has found a rhythm, hitting as many as 683 in a single day. He has settled into nailing somewhere between 550 and 600 most days and averaging better than 70 percent on his attempts. He’s in his best groove using two rebounders and one ball, usually shooting around lunchtime, or whenever it’s convenient around practice schedules. He lauded his friends, colleagues and community members who have graciously assisted him, spending an hour of their day chasing rebounds.
“I can run off streaks of 20, 25, 30 in a row. And then I can miss three in a row,” shrugged Walker, who played varsity basketball at Gettysburg College from 1962-65. “I try to limit my misses to one at a time.”
He has limited his misses by consistently focusing on the task at hand. “After I miss, I try to slow down and really concentrate on making the next one — to eliminate missing two or three in a row.”
Walker admits his concentration can wander, thinking about an upcoming practice or game, or what happened the day before. Other times he’ll find himself wanting to talk to the rebounder or a passerby, but he tries to limit himself. If the does miss, he goes through a series of “trigger keys” to regain his form and focus. This exercise includes bending his knees, tucking in his elbow and completing his follow through. “It is easy to break down,” he explained.
So far, the endeavor hasn’t caused any serious aches or pains. “Some days the elbow feels a little sore, but the shoulder hasn’t bothered me at all, yet. And the legs and back are fine,” he said. He remains somewhat concerned an illness might fatigue him at some point, but he’s prepared to battle through any potential colds. “If I’m sick, I’m just going to have to get up and do it,” he said matter-of-factly.
We teach our players and students here about community service, helping others and helping causes that make a difference in the world around you. I try to do that in my own life, but I just felt I hadn’t done enough in the battle against cancer.”
– Jim Walker
As for donations, Coach Walker is asking friends, family and fans of the Greyhounds to pledge $1 for every 1,000 free throws he makes over the course of the marathon, which will be donated as part of the National Association of Basketball Coaches vs. Cancer initiative. Walker estimates he will finish with somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 makes at the end of the challenge. To keep up with his efforts, click here.
“If every person can give a little bit, we can do a lot of good in the battle against cancer,” Walker said. Click here to view a flyer with information on how to donate or pledge your support.
As for motivation, Walker cited a desire to help the hundreds of thousands affected by the disease each year. Additionally, he noted that his own family has been affected, losing both of his parents to cancer.
“I figured I would do something significant that would make a difference,” he explained. “We teach our players and students here about community service, helping others and helping causes that make a difference in the world around you. I try to do that in my own life, but I just felt I hadn’t done enough in the battle against cancer.”
Walker has been greatly encouraged by the large amount of support he has received from friends, fans, faculty, students and other coaches, and local media outlets, such as WFMZ and TV-2 Sports, have also taken notice of his endeavor. (The WFMZ segiment aired Jan. 27, was titled "Moravian's Jim Walker making difference at the line" and can be viewed here.)
“We have had tremendous support, and hopefully the more publicity we get, the more people will donate and the bigger impact we can make,” Walker said. “We’ll see where this takes us.”
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