Jamall Walker Leaves Role At Illinois For Assistant Job At Grand Canyon

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Jamall Walker has moved back to the first row of a Division I college basketball bench.

Walker, who spent last year in the back row of the Illinois basketball program bench under the title of assistant to the head coach/defensive coordinator, has agreed to become a full-time assistant coach at Grand Canyon under new head coach Bryce Drew.

Grand Canyon announced Wednesday the addition of Drew’s three assistant coaches, each with coaching experience at the Power Five level. Drew will have Walker, former UCLA and Indiana assistant coach Ed Schilling and Vanderbilt assistant Casey Shaw sitting next to him on the Grand Canyon bench starting next season.

Drew was hired to replace the recently terminated Dan Majerle two weeks ago after Drew compiled a 164-108 record in eight season at Vanderbilt from 2011-19. Grand Canyon compiled a 13-17 record this past season that included a 83-71 home loss to Illinois on Nov. 8, which was two days before the Illini lost at Arizona in an early-season road trip.

“I am so excited to be joining Bryce Drew's staff and the GCU community," Walker said via the news release. "Coach Drew is committed to not only developing great basketball players but also helping them to strengthen in their faith and grow into young leaders. These are core values that I strongly believe in. I look forward to building a program with him and the rest of the staff."

Walker arrived at Illinois Walker after following John Groce from Ohio University when Groce was hired in 2012 and has also been a director of basketball operations for Sean Miller at Arizona in 2010.

"Jamall brings many years of Big Ten experience with him to GCU," Drew said in the media release. "Through his years as a player and coach, he has developed a great feel for the defensive end of the court. Recruiting has always been one of his strengths as he has signed many high-level players in the last few years."

When Groce was fired by Illinois in 2017, Walker served as interim coach during the Illini’s NIT run during that season after Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman hired Brad Underwood to take over the program. Underwood elected to keep Walker on his assistant staff for the first two seasons and then demoted him in 2019 to the second row of his bench when the Illini hired Stephen Gentry as an assistant.

Underwood realized a statement regarding Walker's decision Wednesday night via Twitter. 

"I am so happy for Jamall and this next step in his career at Grand Canyon," Underwood's statement reads. "Jamall is an outstanding basketball coach and an even better person. I feel the exact same way about Bryce Drew, so it is a perfect fit that they'll now be working together. Jamall proudly served Fighting Illini basketball for eight years, and he has left a lasting imprint with his countless contributions to the program. I enjoyed our three years together and will always admire him for the relationships he built with our players. I'll miss our collaboration and talking ball in the office, but I am excited about the opportunity that awaits him in Phoenix. We wish all the best to Jamall and his family, wife Rebekah and sons Braylon and Andrew. Thank you for everything Coach Walk!"