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Walker adds to winning pedigree at Florida State

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FSU set to battle with No. 1 seed Michigan on Sunday with a trip to the Elite 8 on the line

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Colorado at Florida State Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

After 119 games, 2,892 minutes, and 1,067 points, Florida State senior guard M.J. Walker has gone where no man has before in the history of FSU basketball postseason play.

Already one of only a handful of Seminoles to even appear in three NCAA Tournaments, on Monday night Walker became the first FSU player to reach three Sweet 16’s in their career. That is, of course, only taking into consideration players who played minutes in each tournament. Walker was a key option off the bench with over 18 minutes per game as a freshman in 2017-18 during the Elite 8 run and has been a starter ever since.

If a normal season’s amount of games were played in 2020-21, he also would have passed Trent Forrest as the winningest player in school history. Instead, Walker’s 96 wins (and counting) will narrowly fall short to Forrest’s 104.

FSU is still dancing in March after a 71-53 win over No. 5 seeded Colorado. Walker led the team with 31 minutes, scoring 7 points on 2 of 3 from the field and 3 of 4 from the line, adding 2 boards, 3 assists, and a steal.

When FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton sat down with the media following the game, the very first thing he mentioned were the intangibles Walker brought to the team beyond the box score that aided in their tenacious defensive effort against the Buffaloes.

“…On the defensive end with the leadership that M.J. Walker gave us tonight and talking and communicating with the players, I thought it really made a huge difference in the game,” said Hamilton.

Battered and bruised from multiple injuries sustained throughout the season, Walker played within himself on offense while maintaining a “field general” presence defensively. He also helped put the exclamation mark on the win with three minutes to play.

Leading 63-48, the sharp-shooting junior Anthony Polite broke into the open court for a one-on-one layup. Polite instead found a cutting Walker, who raced to the rim and raised up for a thunderous slam. Walker screamed and flexed after the dunk and the FSU bench went wild, with the Noles having all but clinched the game.

Walker’s winning pedigree at Florida State doesn’t even have the full accolades he has earned and deserved. Everyone knows that Forrest, Walker and the 2019-20 edition of FSU basketball would have been a very high seed last year and likely would have gone to the Sweet 16 or deeper into the tournament.

Regrettably, Forrest didn’t have the chance to see how far he could take FSU his senior year. But Walker will, and the Noles are already off to a great start after a decisive 18-point win in the Round of 32.

No. 4 seed Florida State takes on No. 1 seed Michigan Sunday at 5:00 p.m. on CBS with a trip to the Elite 8 on the line.

“A whole lot of pride behind this program. Definitely a lot of moments that I’ll never forget. That was just my little stamp on everything I put in this program and all the help that coaches have given me, teammates in the past and present to get to this point.”

-MJ Walker after his final home game as a Florida State Seminole