POUND PROFILE: Arnold Creating Magic in the Music City
December 26, 2013By Scott Wallace of Fisk University
Fisk Freshman Walter Arnold
NASHVILLE- Birmingham, Alabama is known for a lot of things. In the 1960’s it was called the “Center of the Civil Rights Movement”. Michael Jordan called it home during his brief stint as a minor league baseball player. But most of all it is known as “The Magic City” because in the 1800’s it seemingly sprang overnight from being a poor country town to a booming major city. Through basketball, native son Walter Arnold has brought his magic touch to Nashville. As a true freshman he is a starting guard for the Fisk University Bulldog team. This isn’t the first time he has been in this position.
"In high school, I played varsity as an eighth grader,” said Arnold. “Then I started as a freshman. It is a huge jump from high school to college. I have to get used to the speed. Coach (Jay) Smith and some of the guys told me that I have to mature early. To be honest I am used to being thrown in the fire. Having guys like Darrell (Miller) and Cam (Lewis) around helps me. They probably don’t know it but I look up to them. I want them to gain confidence in me. Teams know about them two and try to stop them. That should leave me and the other guys open for easy looks. So far we have done of a good job of scoring.”
As a freshman at Parkway Christian High School, Arnold along with his best friend Tae Banks led the team to the Alabama State semifinals. Banks was a junior at the time and was highly recruited. Arnold then moved on to Central Parkway Christian. Arnold credits his parents Walter Sr. and LaShelle Arnold, his family and longtime friend Tae Banks for his motivation.
“Birmingham is a tough town. The people back home are proud that I kept playing. My parents kept me out of trouble. I didn’t grow up in the rough part of town. Playing basketball allowed me to meet a lot of people. Tae was the best basketball player that I ever was around at the time. I looked up to him and other guys that were older than me. He decided to work and not play in college. He tells me all the time not to give up and encourages me that my hard work paid off. Every time I step on the court I think about Tae and others that paved the way for me. I play my heart out for them.”
Arnold is a natural born leader. As a junior his team made it to the National Association of Christian Athletes (NACA) National Finals. As a senior he was named captain of his team. His leadership and maturity level permeates from the influence that his parents has on his life. He left a lasting impression on the people at Central Parkway Christian. When I called the school to speak to his coach, Mrs. Pat Wilson, the school secretary, mentioned that he calls her “Mama” and he called to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving. His former head coach Donavan Broadnax second that and said Walter doesn’t miss calling him on Holidays. Arnold was also a saving grace during a though time for Broadnax.
“About a year ago a very close friend of mine passed away,” said Coach Broadnax. “There wasn’t a day that Walt didn’t call and check on me. He calls Father’s Day, Christmas and every special day in my life. He is a genuine kid. I am extremely proud of him. He called me when he first got to Fisk to tell me that he leads the team in exercising. I am not surprised. I remember during the National Finals that we were getting blown out. He never gave up and kept the team pumped up. Right then I knew that he would be our captain the next year. It is a testament to his parents. I don’t have an assistant so everything pretty much falls on my shoulders. I drive the bus, make the Gatorade etc. We sometimes have to go five or six hours away to play. To look up in the stands and see his parents there was a great feeling for us. We have had some talented players come through this program. Some have gone on to Division I programs, some are playing overseas; we even had a kid drafted in the NBA the same year as Lebron James. Walt’s leadership is right up there with them. Again, I have to credit his parents. He is extremely talented and with that you sometimes get parents to try to tell how to coach their child. His father’s only words to me are hello coach and what can I do to help. That is a breath of fresh.”
So far this season Arnold is averaging 9.4 points per game for the Bulldogs. He is leading the team in free throw shooting percentage (89%). His 16 made thee pointers rank him second on the team behind Lewis. His hard work and toughness has allowed him to earn the respect of his older teammates. Coach Smith saw it early on. Since he has come from winning programs, he has a strong desire to take Fisk to higher heights.
“Some guys lead by being loud, Walt let’s his work hard speak for him,” said Coach Smith. “To be a great player in high school then become basically a nobody would humble some guys. He came in and learned the system fast. The one thing coaches love about players is if they adhere to the system. Walt does that. I have never seen him down on himself. He doesn’t make excuses either. If he makes a mistake he owns up to it and gets better. We only had four players returning from last year. We told the newcomers that the door was open to get minutes. Walt has kicked the door open. He is always the first one in the gym and the last to leave. Him leading the team in drills as a freshman is pretty exceptional. ”
“I believe in this team, I believe in Coach Smith’s philosophy. We have a strong nucleus. My goal is to win conference this year. Coach Smith has a picture of a championship ring in his office. I want to work hard so he can have one on his finger. The Fisk community has really embraced me. I love playing at home. The games are intense and the fans are into it. I cannot image how it would be if we won it all. It would be magical,” said Arnold.
To Fisk fans and supporters mixing magic with music is a sweet melody to their ears.
January POUND PROFILE will feature Fisk Head Basketball Coaches Jay Smith (Men's) and Tony Thompson (Women's)