MJ's Q&A: Walter Offutt
The Indianapolis native began his college career at Ohio State but eventually followed former Buckeyes assistant John Groce to Ohio, where he helped lead the Bobcats to the Sweet 16 during the 2012 NCAA tournament. Offutt has once again followed Groce, this time to Illinois, where the former shooting guard is a grad manager on the Illini staff. We caught up with Offutt, whom Groce credits with helping the development of a winning culture at Ohio.
What’s your role here at Illinois?
Once the season starts, I’ll be responsible with some things with the players, working them out. I’ll be with the guards since I played guard in college at a high level. I’ll be involved with scouting; I’ll be doing some scout-team stuff. Pretty much whatever they need me to do.
What was your experience like playing for John Groce?
It was great. Obviously, I’m here because of him and the staff. It’s fun being a part of this staff because I’m familiar with what they do from scouting to player personnel to how they interact with the guys. Me being here is another extension of Coach Groce for the players. I know what they’re going through, how their bodies feel, what they’re eating, the sleep patterns. Everything they go through, I went through, and I can relay that to them.
Do you see any similarities between this group and the group at Ohio that made that NCAA run?
I do. Obviously, it’s different with the Big Ten and the MAC, but we had a talented team at Ohio, and we were deep. This team can be as deep. The year we made that run, we knew that was going to be the year we could have a shot at it.
How much fun was that season?
It was a lot of fun. It was a surreal feeling being on that level, playing in the Sweet 16 and going against North Carolina, who had like six or seven NBA players — if not more. There were a lot of lessons learned from that. I want to carry that over to these guys. I missed free throws to go to the Elite Eight, and I tell these guys, “Take every free throw seriously; take every game rep seriously.” I want these guys to know I’ve been there, and I want to help them with all of that.
Do you want to be a coach?
Yep. I’m going to be here two years, and I want to be here two years. My fiancee works here at the university in alumni affairs. We’ll let the chips fall where they may after that. I’d like to be here as a part of this staff when I finish my degree, but different opportunities might pop up. You never know what’s going to happen. In this business, you learn that. I love it here at Illinois. I’m a big part of Coach Groce’s family. He preaches loyalty a lot, and I’m very loyal to Coach Groce. I’ve been with him for a long time.