Solent Stars - Ken Walton - An Interview

(Excerpts from an interview in January 1981)

It seems strange to talk of a player being rejuvenated at the age of 32, but Ken admits that a telephone call at the back end of last season breathed new life into a career that looked set for the last lap.

The 1979/80 season had not been one of the best for Ken. His long term association with Crystal Palace was coming to a close; Dan Lloyd had taken over the champions' captaincy and Norm Sloan had cut him cruelly from the Great Britain squad in Florida.

The telephone call was from Tom Wisman, commodore of the good ship Solent sailing into view just at the right moment. This proved to be the start of Ken' captaincy of Solent that took them to Jersey to beat three first division sides and later to take the Division Two Championship.

Ken looked a man reborn even after spending 13 years already at the top of his game. He had started comparatively late in his sporting life. After the school rituals of soccer and rugby the lecturer at Stretford Tech persuaded him to have a go at basketball. "I never played soccer or rugby again," says Ken. "The involvement in basketball got me from the start and with Stretford in the British League there was a chance to travel. The social side was good too."

It was in 1972 that Ken began his association with Sutton and Crystal Palace. "There were no Americans but even then we had our sights on winning everything. Tom Wisman arrived in 1973 along with Jimmy Guymon and they initially overwhelmed us with their skills. They certainly got us moving in a professional way and, of course, started other clubs thinking American."

Later Ken took a year off to go to the States to watch basketball and then moved to Manchester in 1977. After a year he returned to again captain Crystal Palace for the 1978/79 season when they won the play-offs.

He was called up by the martinet Norm Sloan for the Great Britain camp in Florida, made to shave off his 13 year-old moustache and still called by his number only after one week. Sloan eventually cut three players in the second week and Ken, unsurprisingly, was one of them.

Ken returned to that telephone call and the successful events that followed. Of Norman Sloan little more was heard!

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