Just two seasons removed from his playing career, Rex Walters has landed his first coaching job at an NCAA Division I school.
Walters, a 33-year-old former Kansas University basketball standout who spent the 2002-03 season as an assistant at Blue Valley Northwest High and the last two months as an assistant at NCAA Division II Emporia State, Thursday accepted an assistant-coaching post at Valparaiso University.
"Obviously, I'm very excited. Everybody has known I've wanted to get into college coaching," Walters told the Journal-World Thursday night.
"The tough thing is, I really enjoyed working for David Moe at Emporia State.
"I drove to Emporia today and talked to all the players. It was difficult for me, emotional for me because they are such good, hard-working kids. I could hardly look at those players, but this opportunity was too good (to pass up). It's unbelievable for me."
Walters, who last played for the Kansas City Knights of the ABA two seasons ago after toiling for seven years in the NBA and overseas, interviewed for the job on Homer Drew's Valpo staff and accepted the job Wednesday.
Drew recently came out of retirement to replace his son Scott at Valpo, who left the Mid-Continent Conference school for Baylor.
"I am getting the opportunity to coach with coach Drew -- a guy who has 500 victories," Walters said. "They've won nine straight conference championships. They're always one of those Cinderella teams that always finds a way in the NCAAs. Hopefully we can continue that and even improve on it."
Drew, the winningest coach in Valpo history, was elated upon announcing Walters' hiring.
"Rex brings a wealth of knowledge to our program and has gained a lot of experience with some great coaches at the NBA and collegiate levels," Drew said. "He also possesses an outstanding work ethic which helped him endure a long playing career.
"As a player, Rex was always the first in the gym and the last to leave. That type of work ethic will serve as a great example for our basketball team."
As a player at Kansas, Walters helped the Jayhawks capture the Big Eight championship in 1992 and 1993, earning first team all-Big Eight honors both years. In 1993, Walters was selected as the Big Eight athlete of the year after helping KU reach the Final Four.
In 1993, Walters was the No. 16 selection in the first round of the NBA draft by the New Jersey Nets. A guard, Walters played with the Nets for two seasons before joining the Philadelphia 76ers from 1995-97. He concluded his NBA career with the Miami Heat (1997-00).
Walters took his basketball game to Spain, playing in Leon in 2000 and the Canary Islands in 2001-02.