TJ WALKER has returned to his native America to have surgery on a knee injury that will keep him sidelined until the new year.
The BiG Storage Cheshire Jets head coach picked up the problem in the home defeat to London Capitals on December 2. Scans last week revealed that the injury was more severe than first thought and doctors recommended surgery as the best option for recovery.
Walker found he would be able to have his operation within seven days in America, much sooner than in Britain, and he is scheduled to go under the knife on Thursday.
If all goes well, he will return to the UK to resume coaching duties for the Jets’ trip to Plymouth Raiders in the BBL Trophy on December 29, with a view to returning as a player by the end of January.
Jets’ director of basketball and former head coach Paul Smith will step into the breach during Walker’s lay-off and assume responsibility for training and matchday coaching.
Smith said: “We are all very worried about TJ’s injury. He has been a real inspiration to what is basically a very young and inexperienced team, both as a coach and as a player.
“He has created a very special team spirit and I am sure that this will continue in his absence. The whole squad are united in wishing him a sure and speedy recovery and we are all looking forward to having him back at the helm in the new year.
“In the meantime, there are games to be played and league points to be won – so everyone around the team will be giving 100% to make sure that we can live up to the standards that TJ demands.
“I’m sure all the Jets supporters will join with me in wishing him a swift recovery and a quick return.”
Smith is hoping to have skipper and Jets’ stalwart James Hamilton back for Friday’s derby match at Everton Tigers in the BBL Championship.
Hamilton exacerbated his groin injury by playing for seven minutes in the recent league victory against Leicester Riders and has not played since.