Walter Pitchford is a professional basketball player from Grand Rapids, Michigan. The 26-year-old American began his collegiate basketball career with the Florida Gators in 2011. After one season, Walter transferred to the Nebraska Cornhuskers where he started in 57 games in 2 years. After his junior year, he decided to skip the final year of his collegiate career and declared for the 2015 NBA draft.
Pitchford has never given up on his dreams and continues to push his own limits to accomplish his goals. Enjoy the following interview with him where he talks about his career, family, Nebraska, and his upcoming steps.
Walter, thank you for joining us. To begin with, share a few words on your early Basketball days. Did your parents teach you at all or how did you get started?
Both of my parents coached me growing up. My dad coached me at the game of basketball and my mom taught me basic life lessons, love, respect, good manners, and always told me to treat others the way you would want to be treated. In general, my family has definitely impacted my basketball journey in a great way. They always gave me good and fair advice, guidance, encouragement and constructive feedback. To this day, they are always inspiring me, motivating me, and most importantly, believing in me. I am so grateful for my family and their unconditional love and continuous belief in me and my basketball ambitions.
Your college basketball journey began with your commitment to the University of Florida before transferring to Nebraska. Talk a little bit about your feelings as far as these chapters go.
When I initially committed to Florida, it was a very euphoric feeling as the University of Florida helped me get me cleared through the NCAA eligibility process. Transferring to Nebraska, however, was an even greater feeling of euphoria because I was given an opportunity to continue my education and play basketball in the BIG 10 Conference. The facilities at Nebraska were brand-new and they rivaled NBA-level facilities. At Nebraska, I decided to forego my senior season to turn professional. Leaving Nebraska early was one of the toughest decision I have ever made. I will always remember the great progress we made and will never forget about my time there.
At Nebraska, you got a lot of playing time and evolved to one of the key players during your time there. If you could say something to the whole Husker family, what would that be?
First and foremost, I would like to thank Husker Nation for their love and embracing me. “We are Family”. I will always be very grateful for Coach Tim Miles having given me that opportunity. It has truly been an experience that has helped lay the foundation for my professional basketball career. None of my current successes could have been possible without the team effort of staff, professors, classmates, and supporters. In general, I have to say that there are no fans like Husker fans. I would also like to thank Mr. Dennis LeBlanc who guided me through my classes. His help has been nothing but outstanding.
In general, from Donde Plowman, the Executive Vice Chancellor, to successful business owners like Jay Wilkinson, Monte Froehlich, Paul Jarrett, David Graff, Joey Brander… to former athletes like Eric Warfield, Ty Lue, Maggi Thorne… they all have taught me valuable principles that I use in my everyday life. They helped me instill the right mindset and mentality to achieve success in my current and future basketball and business endeavors.
Sometimes, people forget that student-athletes are students first. What role did academics play in your career and your personal development?
My parents raised me to have a high standard for education and community service. They taught me that education will last a lifetime. Also, that an athlete’s playing time is short compared to the longevity of life which is arguably one of the best life lessons I ever received. Luckily, the athletic staff placed a high priority on academics. School has really helped me develop the ability to think critically on and off the court.
When you turned professionally, you knew that school won’t be a part of your daily life anymore. What else did you anticipate to change from being a collegiate athlete to playing professionally?
What I thought would be different between being a collegiate student-athlete and a professional athlete was that it would take more training, determination and a higher level of confidence for developing into a professional athlete than a student-athlete. Oh, and more self-discipline. Luckily, I feel like I have been successful in bridging the differences due to working with professional trainers. My body, for example, is in excellent condition. I haven’t incurred any injuries. And there is little mileage on my body as a professional basketball player as well.
You once said: “I want to just grind and build, and love the process while I do it. I’m in love with the journey more than anything.” To conclude our story, tell our readers what comes next for you? What set of goals and what steps are you taking to achieve those goals?
My ultimate next goal is to play basketball at the highest level. My plan is to achieve those goals through exposure. I am convinced that I will accomplish my goals because (1) I will continue to stay in top condition; (2) I will always play hard and focused; (3) I’m in a good agency; and (4) I’m in it for the long-haul. I still appreciate the grind and journey. In my sincerest thoughts and deepest feelings, I have never left basketball, and I never will. I was created to do this. I’m going to do what I have been created to do.
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