EXCLUSIVE: Former St. Anthony's H.S. basketball player fled Ukraine ahead of war
It's not just Ukrainian citizens who are fleeing to find safety in parts of Europe and Asia. A former St. Anthony's basketball player did too and just in time.
Andre Walker was a championship-winning basketball star at St. Anthony's High School.
For the past four years, he's played pro hoops overseas in Russia and Latvia. He joined a new team in Ukraine in August.
There was warm weather, nightlife and new teammates who welcomed him to Mikolive, a busting port city in southern Ukraine that Walker enjoyed exploring.
However, Walker said things changed in January when Ukrainian soldiers patrolled and barricaded the streets..
“I was seeing more and more soldiers every day walking, casually walking, and Russian troops lined 70% of the Ukrainian border,” said Walker.
On Feb. 11, President Joe Biden told U.S. citizens to leave Ukraine. That's when Walker and his American teammates told the Mikolive team they wanted out too.
“They were like, 'No don't worry, we have a plan.' I was sitting in the back, straight-faced like, 'I want to leave, I want to leave.' My bags were packed. I was leaving regardless whether I had a team or not,” said Walker.
A week later, Walker got his release and signed with a team in Lublin, Poland - 60 miles from the Ukrainian border where he's playing again and worrying about the friends he left behind and the tragedy they're dealing with.
“One of my closest friends on the team was showing me how everyone in the city had their lights off because the invasion had started, and they were coming to Mikolive heavy. Some restaurants were on fire, some of my favorite places to eat at was on fire,” said Walker.