Scott Bordow: Demetrius Walker was 14 years old when he went national. Sports Illustrated traveled to Southern California to write a long profile on Walker, then considered the best schoolboy basketball player in the country.
Demetrius Walker was 14 years old when he went national. Sports Illustrated traveled to Southern California to write a long profile on Walker, then considered the best schoolboy basketball player in the country.
The story, full of anecdotes about Walker’s extraordinary skills, included this line: “The kid is 14 going on LeBron.”
That’s an impossible standard, of course and Walker isn’t the next LeBron or the next Michael or even the next James Harden.
But after watching the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Walker light up Gilbert Highland for 27 points in Phoenix St. Mary’s 70-62 5A Division I state title game Saturday, one thing is certain:
Arizona State is getting itself one heck of a basketball talent this fall.
“I think Demetrius is going to be as good as he wants to be,” Highland coach Mark Carlino said. “He’s got some things to work on, but he plays with incredible heart and incredible passion.”
Let’s be clear: Walker won’t step in a freshman, as Harden did, and become one of the Pac-10’s dominant players. His game isn’t as refined as Harden’s, he’s not as polished an outside shooter and he doesn’t have the feel for his teammates that Harden does.
But Walker is more athletic than Harden and he attacks the basket with the same ferocity. He’ll make an immediate impact, and once coach Herb Sendek teaches him how to play defense – and Sendek will teach him – Walker has a chance to be a terrific Pac-10 player. Think Hassan Adams, except with a better handle.
“He’s a man-child,” St. Mary’s coach Dave Lopez said. “Like most great players, the high school game has held him back a little bit because of the way it’s played. I think he’ll do real well at the next level.”
Having not seen Walker play before, I was curious as to how he would handle Saturday’s title game. Would he play within the game’s flow or try to take over at the detriment of his teammates?
Walker, who enrolled at St. Mary’s last summer when his mom moved to the Valley, did have some moments when he tried to do too much but he didn’t take the superstar thing too far. That will endear him to Sendek as much as it has to Lopez, who initially wondered how a player with Walker’s talent and notoriety would affect team chemistry.
“You know why it worked for him here?” Lopez said. “He bought into it. He respected the program, the coaches and his teammates.”
That’s not to say Walker doesn’t have an ego. All great players do. But for a kid who was in Sports Illustrated before he grew a whisker, he doesn’t come across as spoiled or self-absorbed.
As Walker walked off the court with the net around his neck and the championship trophy cradled in his arms, he spotted his mother, Kisha Houston, in the first row. He gave her a kiss on the cheek and started sobbing.
“I did it, mom. I did it,” he said as he wiped the tears out of his eyes with his jersey.
Why are you so emotional, I asked Walker as we headed to the Knights’ locker room.
“I’ve put so much into my high school career,” he said. “For me to come out here and help St. Mary’s win the state title means everything to me.”
Talented, humble and sneaky – Walker shot two free throws after teammate Blake Davis was fouled.
Yeah, ASU fans are going to like the kid.