FORMER Easthampstead Park Community School pupils played host to a basketball event with a difference.

More than 50 ex-students returned to the sports hall recently to enjoy an afternoon of basketball to celebrate the end of a 40-year teaching career of Head of PE, John Walker.

Mr Walker began teaching at Easthampstead Park in September 1977 and left in summer 2006.

During that time the boys’ basketball teams competed in 76 Berkshire schools county finals, winning a staggering 49 trophies.

That superb haul included being county champions every year from 1990 to 2006 after which Mr Walker moved to Charters in Sunningdale.

There, he coached the team that won the league and cup double two years’ running.

This year, his Under 14 team reached the county league final before losing out to a talented Little Heath School from Tilehurst.

Mr Walker also helped coach three Easthampstead Park players who went on to play for England – Kevin Evans, Ian Borcherds and Andy Bunton.

Seven more were signed by British Basketball League clubs including Jimmy Guymon, who joined the now extinct Bracknell Tigers, while Anthony Green played for Thames Valley Tigers from 1994-1996, Scott Whiteside did so in 2004 while Ben Clarke played for Guildford Heat under ex-Bracknell coach Paul James in 2006.

Such was Mr Walker’s influence on sport in the area that Easthampstead Park School’s basketball programme won the 2004 Team of the Year at Bracknell Forest Borough Council’s Young People In Sport award, collecting the trophy from former England cricket star, Alec Stewart.

Mr Walker can now be found behind the microphone during the home matches of Surrey Scorchers, whose director is former Easthampstead Park student, Gavin Baker.

The reunion recently was organised by Baker along with Mr Walker’s won, Dave, a former Thames Valley Tigers player whose team-mates included GB star Joel Freeland.

The reunion involved a host of locally-based former students, while Steve Farrell travelled from South Carolina to pay his respects and ex-England and Tigers star Peter Scantlebury MBE drove down from Sheffield.

Mr Walker said: “Scants is a legend in the English game and I am hugely grateful to him for coming over to help me celebrate my retirement.”

Dave Phillips, a former colleague of Mr Walker now living in the United States, added: “John has been a huge influence on me and my career.

“I now try to pass on his ethos of hard work, dedication and fun to my own students.”