Last year Thomas Walkup famously stole the ball from Kostas Sloukas and made a game-winning basket against Olympiacos. This year he is a teammate of Sloukas, after moving from Zalgiris Kaunas to Pireaus.

Thomas Walkup

Thomas  Walkup
Team: Olympiakos Piraeus
Position: SG
Age: 28
Height: 193 cm
Weight: 88 kg
Birth place: Texas, United States of America

So you can only imagine how the first day of Walkup's visit to Olympiacos locker room looked like.

"Before I signed here, everybody was saying 'This is a foul,' and then I signed, and everybody said, 'Oh, it was a great play!' So yeah, it's definitely a flipped opinion on that play."

"I think the only person that thinks that's a foul is Sloukas," Walkup said jokingly while talking to BasketNews during a friendly tournament in Nicosia, Cyprus, last week.

Actually, last season Zalgiris broke Olympiacos' hearts not once but twice.

In the very first game of the season, Rokas Jokubaitis made two free throws in the last seconds to squeeze out a 68-67 victory.

Then, on the 22nd of January, Zalgiris erased a 7-point deficit in the last 3 minutes of the game, and Walkup stole the ball from Sloukas with 10 seconds left, dribbled down the court, and scored a game-winning basket.

"To make a steal like that, on a player that quality, with a game on the line, not just defensive play, but probably the biggest play of my life," Walkup admitted after the game. Which was typical of him. Gritty, physical, never giving up, doing all the right things on the court.

It was fans and peers who got to love Walkup over his three years in Kaunas. He came in as a defensive stopper, 2-guard, but he thought he was going to be cut midway through the first season after initial struggles.

Zalgiris were decimated by point guard injuries, and coach Sarunas Jasikevicius decided to move Walkup to the No. 1 position. Soon enough Walkup blossomed into one of the best two-way point guards in Europe.

"Like I was telling somebody the other day about that time, and if that goes worse for me, then who knows if I'm even playing basketball," Walkup remembered.

He is for sure in a different position now. After having played in EuroLeague for three seasons, Walkup decided he needed a new challenge last summer and chose to move to Greece.

Walkup still remembers how emotional he got after he told Zalgiris GM Paulius Motiejunas about a decision to leave Kaunas.

"But it was just kind of a gut feeling of what I thought was best for my career," Walkup said.

He left Kaunas and moved to Greece, but some of his friendships in Lithuania will remain for life.

Take Marius Grigonis, for example. He and Walkup spent three years in Zalgiris; both left in the summer of 2021, but once they met each other for the first time in Nicosia, it was as sweet as you could imagine.

"I'm super close with a lot of those guys," Walkup said. "I mean Marius, Yanky (Jankunas), Milaknis, those guys are lifelong friends. And I think just in general from Lithuania, the thing I miss most would be the people."

Now Walkup is playing next to a guy he stripped of the ball last season, and that guy happens to be one of the greatest guards in Europe. It's been a couple of weeks, but Walkup is already enjoying collaboration with Kostas Sloukas.

"You look at a guy like him; he's been playing for 12-13 years, something like that. The amount of knowledge he's gained is far superior to mine, so I'm learning from him and asking him questions. And then also you know he's been here for a year so getting him to give me tips and keys into the system is important to me. And I'm really happy that he's open and receptive to that."

They may not (yet) agree on what happened last January, but Walkup and Sloukas are sure to have found an instant bond on and off the court.

Watch or listen to podcast with Thomas Walkup.

Topics:

  • Intro and Summer workouts (0:00);
  • Finding lifelong friends in Zalgiris (4:05);
  • The decision to leave Zalgiris and move to Olympiacos (9:48);
  • Epic steal from Sloukas and how he accepted Walkup to the locker room (12:45);
  • Getting used to Greek Alphabet (18:21).

You can follow BasketNews Talks on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsPodbean, and wherever you get your podcasts.

Also do not forget to follow us on YoutubeInstagramFacebook, or Twitter.

Sharing is always a good idea, so if you liked this podcast, do not hesitate to share it with your friends.

Show comments
Thank you for reporting a comment

Add comment

We have the right to remove comments which are offensive, contains abusive language, or violates other rules of the website