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Where are the mid-major stars now? Stephen F. Austin’s Thomas Walkup

Recently being named to the Greek preliminary squad for the FIBA World Cup, Walkup played four years for SFA, leading them to three Southland conference titles

West Virginia v Stephen F. Austin
Thomas Walkup was the leader of three straight Southland Conference title-teams at Stephen F. Austin.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

In his eighth year of professional basketball, Thomas Walkup has made a name for himself across the pond in Germany, Lithuania, and now Greece. Hailing from Pasadena, Texas, the recently-named Greek citizen came from humble beginnings, starting as a star for Deer Park High School in Deer Park, Texas, right outside of Houston.

Walkup decided to attend Stephen F. Austin due to the lack of scholarship offers following his senior year, citing Houston Baptist as the only other university that offered him out of high school.

“There was a reason I didn’t have any other scholarship offers besides those two—I wasn’t any good,” Walkup said in a 2016 Sports Illustrated article.

In college, the combo guard played four years for the Lumberjacks, starting out averaging just 4.4 PPG and 3.6 RPG in his freshman season.

He improved to 18.1 PPG and 6.9 RPG in his senior year on his way leading SFA to three straight tourney appearances. In his final year, the Lou Henson award recipient scored 33 points in a first-round upset of three-seeded West Virginia as part of a flagship game that would cement Walkup into mid-major royalty.

Following his senior season, the guard entered the 2016 NBA Draft. Standing at 6-foot-4-inches, 195-pounds, with a 6’8 wingspan, Walkup drew some looks from teams as a late second-round prospect, but he eventually went undrafted.

He signed with the Warriors to play with them in summer league. He averaged 3.2 PPG and 3.5 PPG in 15.9 MPG off the bench alongside current NBA players such as Royce O’Neale and Patrick McCaw. Based on his performance, he drew interest from the Chicago Bulls, who signed him to their training camp roster.

After donning the Bulls jersey in four preseason games with the team, Walkup was waived before the start of the season. Just nine days later, though, the D-League’s Windy City Bulls acquired the Pasadena product. In his lone season with the team, he averaged 7.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, and 1.1 SPG in 40 games with 23 starts.

Windy City Bulls v Long Island Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

After just one season in the D-League, Walkup took his game across the Atlantic Ocean, making a stop with MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg for a season in the German Basketball Bundesliga and the Basketball Champions League. That season, which was 2017-18, he averaged 11 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 4.2 APG on his way to being named All-German BBL First Team and leading the team to a third-place finish.

A short time after, the Lithuanian Basketball League’s (LKL) Žalgiris Kaunas took a chance on the big guard, and he ran with it. In just his first season with the team (2018-19), he won LKL Defensive Player of the Year on his way to helping the team to an LKL title that year. In two more years in Lithuania, Žalgiris Kaunas completed an LKL three-peat, with Walkup bringing home LKL Finals MVP alongside another DPOY in his final year on the team.

His excellent play in the LKL drew interest from the Greek Basketball League (GBL) team, Olympiacos, who eventually signed him to a three-year deal in 2021. As a member of the team, Walkup competed as both a GBL player and as a EuroLeague athlete, finding success in both areas. In 2021-22, Walkup began his GBL playing career with an all-star nod and took home GBL Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY).

The next season, Walkup brought his defensive prowess to the EuroLeague, leading the league in steals (1.8 SPG) and being named EuroLeague Round of 32 MVP. In his most recent season with Olympiacos, Walkup brought home another GBL DPOY and led the league in assists. In the GBL Finals, the red-bearded guard won Finals MVP after leading his team to its second consecutive GBL title.

Championship game Olympiacos Piraeus v Real Madrid - Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four Kaunas 2023 Photo by Rodolfo Molina/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

In March, the recently-naturalized Greek citizen re-upped with Olympiacos for four years, a contract that will keep him on the team through 2027. Today, with a Greek National team nomination for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Walkup continues his success.

Walkup’s massive success in Europe speaks to the validity of European basketball as well as the skill possessed by the “tweener” guard. His defensive ability combined with his impressive playmaking expertise makes him a sought-after player for his gadget potential in any scheme. He is another mid-major product who has proven his worth in the professional basketball scene.