Women's basketball notes: Walker on the move

Weeks removed from learning of leading scorer Jasmyn Walker’s decision to transfer, the Valparaiso women’s basketball team is ready to turn the page to the 2016-2017 season.

Walker has transferred to Western Michigan, where she will sit out a year before joining forces with her younger sister for the 2017-2018 campaign. Walker started every game of her two-year Valparaiso tenure and led the team in scoring this season with 12.2 points per game.

Walker declined to do an interview on her decision to transfer, but issued a written statement.

“Lots of thought and prayer have gone into my decision and I really don’t want to make any enemies or say anything bad about anyone,” Walker wrote. “I want to leave Valpo on a good note. I appreciated everything that has happened here and the lessons I’ve learned as well as the friendships I’ve built.”

That void presents an opportunity for Dani Franklin, who scored 13 points per game on her way to Horizon League Freshman of the Year honors in 2014-2015 before averaging 10.1 points this year.

“I think Dani has a whole new perspective on what she needs to do,” Valparaiso coach Tracey Dorow said. “She wants to be more of a contributor on both ends of the floor. She’s focused on really making that huge jump this summer to be ready to lead us in a different direction to do special things.”

Dorow believes Walker’s departure provided extra motivation for the team’s postseason practices, which concluded this week.

“They can’t figure out why anyone wouldn’t want to be a part of our program with the direction we’re going,” Dorow said. “That’s motivated them even further to prove everybody wrong that we are going in the right direction and we are going to win more basketball games next year. Next year, in their minds, is going to be a big jump.”

Valparaiso has inked five incoming freshmen, and is attempting to fill the roster spot vacated by Walker’s exit with a transfer.

Franklin, who is in the mix to take over Walker’s starting position, shined throughout the spring.

“The biggest key has been that we’ve tried to target each player individually in the weight room as far as their strengths and conditioning,” Dorow said. “You can see some major strides in those areas.”

Westendorp exits: Dorow confirmed this week that former associate head coach Kurt Westendorp is no longer on the coaching staff.

Westendorp, a Valparaiso graduate, is in the process of searching for a job as a head coach.

“He’s a Valpo alum, so obviously he really bleeds brown and gold,” Dorow said. “It’s a tough decision for him to make that transition. I know he’s wanted to be a head coach for a long time. It was the right time for him to make that jump and really pursue things hard. He didn’t want to put us in that position in July or August.”

Dorow has worked with Westendorp for six seasons – two at Ferris State and four at Valparaiso.

“It was a bittersweet moment to see him go,” she said. “He’s so proud to be Valpo, you can just see it and feel it when you walk by him. He’s very diligent in his work and he’s done a tremendous job of mentoring the students here.”

Coaching search: The Crusaders are in the process of interviewing candidates for the coaching vacancy.

“We’re looking for someone who is going to challenge these young women on a level they maybe haven’t been challenged before,” Dorow said. “We’re just opening up the search at this point, and all the people we’re talking to are very different. There’s always growth through change. We’re looking forward to seeing what God has in store for our program and who He brings in.”

Award update: Incoming freshman Grace Hales scored 19 points to earn MVP honors in the Indiana vs. Ohio Border Wars game on Sunday. Hales helped Indiana to an 81-68 win over Ohio.

Contact Brandon Vickrey at torchsports@valpo.edu.

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