On the morning that Nebraska was finally set to open its 2020-21 season, the Huskers were dealt a significant blow before even tipping off.
Junior forward Derrick Walker, who transferred to NU from Tennessee in 2019, has been suspended by the NCAA for 16 games due to a violation of team and NCAA rules while he was still with the Volunteers during the 2018-19 season.
The news was announced via press release on Wednesday morning.
The 6-foot-8, 232-pound native of Kansas City, Mo., won’t be eligible to play this season until Nebraska’s game at Iowa on Jan. 24, 2021.
“One of the aspects I like most about coaching is the deep personal relationships and impact you have on the development of the people in your program,” head coach Fred Hoiberg said in the release. “It is my job as the head coach at the University of Nebraska to help mold and develop my players just as much off the court as on the court. I take a lot of pride in building trusting relationships where my players know that they can come talk to me whenever they need something.
“Since arriving at Nebraska, Derrick Walker has been phenomenal at owning up to a mistake he made prior to coming here. He was transparent throughout the recruiting process and acknowledged his mistake. In turn, we told him confidently we would support and fight for him.
“The 16-game suspension Derrick faces is based on a normal 31-game regular season. In our opinion, the penalty should accurately reflect half of the abbreviated 2020-21 season, which is scheduled to be 27 games. We have made that case with the NCAA, but at this point the 16-game penalty stands. A lot of hard work went into this from many people at the University, and I thank them for their efforts.
Regardless of the outcome of any further appeals, we will continue to support Derrick and get him as ready as possible for when he is eligible to compete. I know Derrick is in a much better place today than when he arrived at Nebraska, and he is a valuable member of our team on and off the court.”
The violation that stemmed Walker’s suspension happened more than 18 months ago – before he was ever even offered by Nebraska as a sit-out transfer.
Despite never having any issues since arriving in Lincoln as Hoiberg noted, the NCAA still moved forward on issuing the suspension and rounded up on the number of games Walker had to miss.
The 16-game suspension was based on half of a typical regular season, which would be 31 games. In this year’s 27-game schedule, though, that would only be 13.5 games.
There is a chance that Walker’s suspension could be shortened, as an NCAA committee will review all drug-related penalties during a meeting on Dec. 9. However, that is expected to be a longshot, at best.
Walker played two seasons at Tennessee from 2017-19, including the Vols’ Sweet 16 team that went 31-6 in 2018-19 and the SEC championship squad as a true freshman.
Off the court, the human development and family science major was a participant in the 2018 Joint Student-Athlete Leadership Council in Birmingham, Ala., serving as one of 25 Basketball Leadership Council representatives while at Tennessee.
Walker was recently selected to represent Nebraska at the Black Student-Athlete Summit in Austin, Texas, in January of 2020.