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Old 01-29-2007, 09:28 PM
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I found this article abour Rocky Walls from last year's team and I just thought I post it:

"CBA -- Walls prepared for life after basketball

Perhaps the hardest thing for a professional athlete to do is look past their playing days.

To start making preparations for the time when sports will no longer pay the bills.

Rocky Walls falls into that group -- but not because he lacks foresight. ANDY SAWYER/Yakima Herald-Republic

Rocky Walls drives to the basket against Butte on Jan. 8 in the SunDome.

You see, Walls isn't thinking about his future plans; he's already done something about them.

Walls, along with his mother and sister, have started a business, Home Health Care, where they send out nurses and physical therapists to homes, in the Dallas area, and plan to expand to Miami in the near future.

"I thought it was something we could do on our own," said the 30-year-old Walls, noting that his mother Erica White, and sister Angela Masters have both worked in that field for the past "10 to 15 years."

That's a prime reason why Walls returned to the Yakama Sun Kings for the first time since his rookie season in 1998-99 after a vagabond career outside the U.S. in recent years.

"I didn't want to go overseas. I have a lot of things going on," said Walls, adding that he also got married a year and a half ago and has two daughters.

"It's kind of tough," he said of helping with the business. "I stay on the phone a lot and we communicate through e-mail and fax.

"That's why I knew it would good for me to be in the states (this season). If something comes up, it's easy for me to come home."

Of course the other reason Walls chose the Sun Kings (he played for the Dakota Wizards last season), was the opportunity to reunite with Paul Woolpert, his first pro coach.

"I wanted to play," he said, "but just not for any coach."

Needless to say, Woolpert didn't hesitate to welcome him back.

"Aside from getting a little older, as we all do ... he's still a great defender and rebounder," Woolpert said of the rangy 6-foot-8 forward from Oral Roberts University who has led the Sun Kings in both rebounds and blocked shots seven times in the 15 games he's played this season.

In some ways, Walls might be even a little better today than his first Sun Kings tour because of the experience he's gained in between Yakima stops, Woolpert said.

"He understands what's expected of him and goes out there and does it," Woolpert said. "He's one of those guys I never have to worry about. I know he'll come to the gym and go about his business."

"As a rookie, I was just playing. Now, I still go out and play, but I understand situations better," said Walls, who has provided valuable leadership to Yakama's younger players.

"Over the years, you learn a lot and I try to teach the young guys," he said. "I tell them, but I also let them go through things on their own ... but you make sure they don't fall too hard. That's how the veterans treated me.

"I don't say, 'do this, do that'. I never liked that, and now I try to let them learn on their own."

Hoping to combine all those assets into a package that will catch the eye of an NBA team is another reason Walls stayed home this season, because while still an extremely effective player, his business and family interests are reminders that the NBA window is closing.

"I always want to explore all my options," said Walls, who has played overseas in at least five different countries since his first tour with the Sun Kings.

Even though Walls doesn't post big offensive numbers, his specialized talents make him the prototypical role player that NBA teams are seeking from the minor leagues.

"In the CBA, he, as much as anyone, has an NBA game because of that," Woolpert said of Walls' rebounding and defensive skills. "He'll do exactly what he's asked, and not try to do anything more. He's the type of player who cleans up a lot of messes. He sees situations on the floor defensively and is always in great help position."

"It helps," Walls said of his ability to bring specific skills to a team. "You look on every NBA team and they have eight guys who can score 20-plus points, but they only need two per night, so the other six have to learn roles. Players from here are usually going to fill a void. They don't need a scorer."

Even though time has become Walls' biggest foe, his recent endeavors off the court have provided a rejuvenating effect, particularly at home where he and wife Melody are enjoying their 1 1/2-year-old daughter Sni, and 10-year-old Dominique.

"It's fun. I get a chance to act like a kid again. It keeps me young," said Walls, who doesn't have a specific timetable for leaving the game. "As long as everything is good and my body is fine, I'll play as long as I feel a love for the game. When I don't have that love, then it's time to move on."

Rest assured, Walls will be ready when that day arrives."

I am subscribed to Yahoo! Alerts about the Wizards so I get articles all of the time like this.
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