T.J. Walker Sr., the patriarch of one of Modesto's most prominent basketball families, was remembered as an intense but understanding mentor and coach.
"T.J. would help anyone who wanted help," said Bobby Cole, the leader of the local Slam 'N Jam basketball program. "He was very knowledgable in basketball and kids liked him."
Walker Sr. lost a short battle with pancreatic cancer on Sunday. He was 58.
His legacy begins with son T.J. Jr. and daughter Ashley, the children of T.J. and wife Jackie.
T.J. Jr., a star at Modesto High, continued his basketball career at the University of the Pacific and Azusa Pacific, followed by a seven-year pro career in England. Ashley, a standout at Grace Davis, enjoyed a prolific career at Cal (2006-'09) and is still the program's all-time leading rebounder and second-leading scorer. Since then, Ashley played one season with the Seattle Storm of the WNBA before she went overseas to play in Israel, Turkey and Rumania.
"T.J. spent countless hours with those kids," Cole said. "He made them who they are."
Born in Chicago, T.J. Sr. eventually moved to Long Beach and played for Jordan High. He continued at the community college level at Apple Valley and Compton, the latter where he was coached by Mahdi Abdul-Rahman (Walt Hazzard).
"He was 5-foot-10 but I know he played like a power forward," T.J. Jr. said. "He could shoot from the perimeter with either hand. I haven't seen that to this day."
Locally, Walker Sr. was prolific in his basketball outreach. He served as a coach in both Slam 'N Jam and the Modesto Magic along with Modesto High and Grace Davis during his children's respective careers.
Walker Sr. also coached the Modesto Bearcats of the ABA and, more recently, coached at Big Valley Christian, the Ceres High junior varsity and the AAU team Hoopology. He was preparing to help T.J. Jr., the new boys coach at Excel Academy in Stockton.
"He taught us to stand up for ourselves and don't let anyone walk on you," Walker Jr. said. "It was always family first with him. He would have done anything for us."
A celebration of his life will be held Friday at 4:30 p.m. at the Excel gym.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter, @modbeesports.