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Catching up with former Pirate, Jerry Walker - Q&A

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Former Pirate great and Jersey City philanthropist, Jerry Walker, recently spoke at a TEAM WALKER event alongside Seton Hall (Law) alumnus, Governor Chris Christie.

I recently caught up with former Seton Hall standout and true Jersey boy, Jerry Walker for a Q&A. For those who have met the larger-than-life Walker, you'll likely agree that his infectious personality and driven work ethic are what made him successful not only on the hardwood, but also with his philanthropic endeavors since his time at Seton Hall. Walker spoke candidly with me about his time at Seton Hall, the current Pirates and his bid for becoming the 49th Mayor of Jersey City, NJ; so, lets get right to it:

Your former Coach, PJ Carlesimo, has enjoyed a lot of early success as the new Head Coach of the Brooklyn Nets. I know you two were close at Seton Hall; do you still keep in contact?

Oh absolutely. PJ was recently honored at my annual banquet which was a lot of fun. We are in contact with each other pretty frequently. In fact, I helped him find a place in Jersey City. We text a lot after [his] games, mostly after he wins, which has been a lot. He's a great coach, he's a great X's and O's guy. He knows how to make adjustments on the court' mid-game' which is critical in the NBA since it's so fast paced. I'm happy for him, I'm pulling for him.

As a former Seton Hall big, what are your thoughts on the Pirates' front court with (fellow #21 wearing) Eugene Teague, Brandon Mobley, Aaron Geramipoor and red-shirt junior, Patrik Auda?

Well, I think the front court is pretty good, but every time I see the #21 I kind of, like, cringe a little bit [laughs]. Teague is doing a good job, he seems to be a pretty physical kid, but if you're wearing the #21 you have to be a leader and be emotionally involved. The problem is, these guys have to stay healthy. You build chemistry throughout the season, but with them missing practices and missing games, it's hard to build that chemistry. So hopefully, we can get these guys back healthy. I just don't know how they do it, they got just seven guys. I guess Shaheen is practicing with them - the whole coaching staff has to practice. But seriously, I like this group of guys and if healthy, they can really compete.

You've been a philanthropist for many years in your native Jersey City with Team Walker. How has that experience affected you, and how has it affected Jersey City?

This has had a wonderful affect on me. People always ask me, "Why do you do this stuff, you could be one of the coaches at Seton Hall, you could be doing this or that" but the reality is that what I do is so gratifying to me and I feel I owe it back to my neighborhood that watched over me. Growing up, this community kept me out of harms way. They understood that I had potential to be somebody, so I want to give that back. It does my heart some good. I always wanted to build a community center, and now it's done but it took me a while to get to this point. I've always had a vision, but it's definitely not a sprint, it's more like a marathon. We are going to save a lot of lives around here; not just one, hopefully thousands.

You recently announced your Mayoral Candidacy for Jersey City. What is your message and what goals do you hope to accomplish as Mayer?

Well, anyone that knows me knows I'm a total advocate for education. I want to improve upon our education system because education is something that can help move our community in the right direction. If people are more educated, they'll get into less trouble. A recent study showed that 85% of people that are incarcerated can't read or write. Without those skills, they just can't compete in the world. We have people with Ph.D.'s who are out of work, so how is a guy that can't read or write going to compete in this world; they may turn to the streets and get themselves in trouble. One of the things I want to get back to is community policing. I'm a community activist, and I gotta tell you, I don't even know the cops in my own neighborhood. They aren't a part of the community, but they should be. When I was growing up in Jersey City on Pacific Ave., on the corner of my block we had a police substation, and it was a place where kids would go to hang out and interact with the officers. We knew them by first name and the officers also knew the families and business owners in the area too. It was a real community. I feel like having this relationship, it will take time, will aid in crime prevention. I'm into prevention because, why see another kid get killed if you can stop it? The late great Mayor Cunningham (of Jersey City) was also in that police substation, and he really knew everybody; we need to get back to that. We can't have the kids viewing the cops as the enemy, so when I'm Mayer, I'll help create a better sense of community and partnership. This doesn't just take money, this takes good leadership and the ability to drive home your message to achieve that vision.

Finally, what is your favorite moment as a Pirate?

One that stands out to me was the win against Syracuse, when we beat them at the Meadowlands and the fans rushed the court and it was completely crazy. Man, that was a lot of fun. Also, obviously winning the Big East Championship (1993) by beating Syracuse by the largest margin in Big East history at a Championship game (103 - 70) [as an aside, that year, Jerry Walker was named Big East Defensive POY and Terry Dehere was named Big East POY], so that's really something that only Seton Hall can say. I'm really proud of so many moments at Seton Hall. We're a family at Seton Hall, you know? I have to tell you, without the connections I made at Seton Hall, where would Team Walker be? Obviously I have the drive and will, but to have the great Seton Hall community along the way, and my basketball experience, that has really allowed me to do what I'm doing and help the youth in Jersey City. I'm humbled by Seton Hall. I love it and I learned a great deal from my time there. It's something that is near and dear to my heart and I absolutely bleed blue so I'm a strong advocate for the Seton Hall.

I'd like to thank Jerry for taking the time to speak with us at The Juice. I'm fairly certain I speak for the entire Seton Hall community when I say that we wish him well in his Mayoral candidacy, as he continues to become more involved with public service. For additional information on TEAM WALKER, see the link below.