PBA: How import Henry Walker changed Blackwater's culture

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 05 2020 06:46 PM

Former Blackwater import Henry Walker. Richard Esguerra, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines -- Well-traveled import Henry Walker was a big reason for the improvement of several players of Blackwater Elite, including Poy Erram and Nard Pinto, who have since moved on to different teams.

Erram, now a center for TNT KaTropa, recalled that Walker changed the team's culture when he arrived as a replacement import in the 2017 PBA Governors' Cup. 

Walker came in as a replacement for Trevis Simpson, who had gone 0-3 with the Elite. He averaged 27.5 points, 16.75 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game, leading Blackwater to six wins and a quarterfinals appearance.

"Noong bago po siya dumating, 'yung ibang player sa amin, parang medyo relax-relax," Erram said, recounting his experiences during an appearance on "2OT."

"Pagdating niya sa amin, nakikita niya na iilan lang 'yung nagsisipag, iilan lang 'yung nakikita niyang nage-extra work. So parang sa kanya, kung maglalaro ako sa ganitong team, tapos puro tayo talo, 'wag na lang," he added.

"Dumating sa point na mag-aaway sa practice, takot 'yung player sa kanya, sasabihan niya ng ganito. Kung ano 'yung nakikita niya, kunyari tamad, sasabihin niya sa iyo na tamad ka," Erram recalled. "Araw-araw 'yun hangga't wala kang ginagawa sa sarili mo."

At that point, Walker had already played as an import for Alaska in 2014 and for NLEX in 2016. He had also played for the New York Knicks, and had stints with various teams in what was then the NBA D-League.

For Erram and his teammates in Blackwater at the time, Walker was as legit as it gets.

"Proven na si Henry Walker," he said. "NBA veteran na po siya kumbaga, and sa PBA, PBA veteran na rin. And then, 'yung mga pinagdaanan niya as a player, given na, and'yan na. 'Yung credential niya and'yan na."

"Ano pa naman kami, nagsisimula pa lang kami tapos hindi kami maniniwala sa kanya," he said. "Kumbaga, siya rin po 'yung nag-iba ng attitude ng team, and then siya rin 'yung nag-iba ng mga attitude ng mga player."

Erram said that having Walker around went a long way in elevating his game, as well as those of Mac Belo and Mike DiGregorio. Pinto, who played for Blackwater from 2016 to 2019, was also heavily influenced by the former Knick.

"Si Nard, takot 'yan kay Henry dati," Erram revealed. "Pero kinakausap siya ni Henry araw-araw, talagang tumaas po 'yung laro niya."

Pinto has since moved on to play for the Meralco Bolts. DiGregorio currently plays for Alaska.

Walker's second stint with Blackwater didn't go quite as well: they only won one game with him in the 2018 PBA Commissioner's Cup, and the import averaged only 13 points and 10.2 rebounds in his five games with the Elite.

He regained his prolific ways in the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup, averaging 25.27 points and 13.27 rebounds per game. Walker led the Elite to a 7-5 record and the No. 5 seed in the quarterfinals. 

They lost to eventual champions Magnolia in the playoffs, but Erram will always admire how Walker helped the young franchise become relevant during his time with them.

"Ibang klase talaga 'pag may ganoong kasama talaga," said Erram. "Siya, gumagawa talaga siya ng paraan." 

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