By Scott Mammoser
It had been six years since Ashley Walker last played in the WNBA. A star with the California Golden Bears and selected 12th overall in the 2009 WNBA Draft, Walker appeared in 22 games with three different teams during parts of three seasons. So when the 32 year old received a phone call from the Los Angeles Sparks, you can imagine the excitement.
“It’s been so much fun,” Walker said, “getting a chance to see everybody I see overseas, but to see them over here in the states is something I haven’t had a chance to do. For six years, I’ve been solely playing overseas, it’s been long seasons, I won two championships, I was playing deep in the finals and playoffs and was just really focusing on that. Then to receive the call from LA, which is home for me, was really awesome. It allowed me to bring back my game and see how I can do back in the WNBA.”
Walker scored 16 points in the Sparks’ 82-75 preseason loss at the Phoenix Mercury last month. The team cut her before the first regular season game, but she soon was rewarded with an injury exception as Candace Parker and Alana Beard are sidelined. Her tenure is day-to-day, but Walker is making the most out of her unique experience.
“Well, I am 32, so I’m on the end of my career,” Walker added. “So, I’m just doing this as something I hadn’t done when I was younger, giving me the chance to do it now. I don’t know how long it will last. I’m just excited to help the team out, they’re a great team, there are some injuries right now, and I am trying to be an extra body to help them out.”
As a rookie, she appeared in 13 games with Seattle in 2009, then two with Tulsa in 2010 and seven with Connecticut in 2013. Her international career has taken her to Israel, Ukraine, Italy, Turkey, and Romania, where she is also a member of the national team.
“I think I just learn to adapt,” Walker said. “I’ve been everywhere. My last five years were in Italy, and I learned the language, I made tons of friends. I have friends all over the world. I just like to go over there and immerse myself in another culture and then just live differently.”
Walker led the Turkish team Mersin BSB with 20 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this past season. For her favorite moment, she listed when her Italian team, Reyer Venezia, made the EuroCup Finals in 2018.
“Two years ago, (Sparks guard) Riquana Williams and I were on the same team,” said Walker, who added she speaks conversational Italian. “We’ve been on the same team twice now, and we went to the EuroCup Finals, and that was probably the biggest experience I’ve had in Europe. We played in front of 13,000 fans at Galatasaray (Istanbul), and it was amazing, definitely a huge experience for me overseas.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ hiring of Lindsay Gottlieb as an assistant coach this week sent shockwaves around basketball circles. Walker was a freshman at Cal in 2005 when Gottlieb joined Joanne Boyle’s staff from Richmond.
“I am so excited and happy for her,” Walker said. “I think it so amazing they thought of her and looked after her. I’m sad that it changes the culture at Cal a little bit, I went there, and it’s in my heart. I’m really proud of her, and it speaks volumes to her as a coach and as a person. I don’t think I ever thought that someday that’s where her career would take her. I knew one day she would be an amazing head coach, she was a great co-coach, while I was there. I think she just kind of has that personality, she knows the game.”