Walden St. Juste gets a chance to get his first head coaching job at his alma mater. The former Bulkeley High in Hartford standout said he was officially named head coach on Monday.
This is the first head coaching job for St. Juste, 33, who also played at Albertus Magnus College.
“(Bulkeley) is the only place I wanted to (be a head) coach was at Bulkeley, to help bring them a championship,” St. Juste said.
It’s a case of unfinished business for St. Juste. He didn’t play his senior year in 2006-07 because he turned 19 before the season began — too old to play the season, he said.
Among St. Juste’s stops as an assistant coach were at Albertus Magnus as volunteer, Watkinson, Hamden Hall, and, for the last two seasons, Avon.
“Over the last two years, Walden left an indelible impression on the Avon basketball program and more importantly, on our student-athletes,” Avon coach Kris Pedra said. “Walden’s a family man. He’ll bring those family values to the basketball program. Bulkeley basketball will return to the top of the CCC standings under Walden’s guidance. “
St. Juste replaces Shawn Bell, who moved over to coach at Weaver last month, replacing Reggie Hatchett.
St. Juste finished with 1,433 career points at Albertus, seventh all-time. He becomes the second player under Albertus coach Mitch Oliver to become a head coach. Jimmy Economopoulos is currently the coach at Hand.
“They are getting a man of high integrity, someone who understands what it takes to play in high school, excel and move on to college,” Oliver said. “He will make sure that all of these kids who go through the program have a chance to go on to college and help set them up for success in life. He is a perfect role model.”
St. Juste is almost a decade removed from suffering a near fatal heart attack. In fact, St. Juste flatlined for a couple of minutes.
According to a 2011 New Haven Register story, St. Juste collapsed on Oct. 31, 2011 at a practice for the Connecticut Topballerz of the American Basketball Association. He was suffering from Sudden Cardiac Death.
A.J. Huston, the team’s head coach, performed CPR — something he was certified to do as a physical education teacher. He was finally able to revive St. Juste, then an Automatic External Defribrillator (AED) was used to shock his heart and St. Juste began to breathe again.
A defibrillator was soon implanted into St. Juste’s heart. It remains there today. Since that near-fatal day, St. Juste said he had surgery in 2017 to “remove dead tissue from his heart” but his health has been good.
St. Juste, along with former Hamden High standout Byron Reaves, were among Oliver’s first recruits at Albertus. That first season, the Falcons won four games. But as Oliver noted, the tone was set for a fine future: seven Great Northeast Athletic Conference championships.
St. Juste helped lead the Falcons to their first GNAC title in 2010. He was the tournament MVP. Albertus advanced to the NCAA Division III tournament, also winning its first tournament game.
“Mitch taught me how to be a better man, how to be a better player. I owe Mitch everything,” St. Juste said. “He has been like a father to me. To this day, people he introduced to me are some of my close friends and mentor. Without Mitch, I know I would not be the person I am today.”
St. Juste said Tuesday would be a meet and greet with the Bulkeley team and conditioning and tryouts to begin on Wednesday.