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January 28, 2013Derrick Walton, Jr. took the AAU scene by storm last summer, showcasing incredible growth in both size and skill to cement himself as one of the most impressive point guard prospects in the 2013 class.
The senior hasn't slowed down this winter, leading Chandler Park Academy to a 10-3 record and the cusp of a Charter School League title. After Friday's 78-65 win over conference foe Bradford Academy, the Eagles are 10-3 overall, 6-0 in conference with three big games remaining.
With a win Tuesday night over second-place University Prep, Chandler Park could secure the conference crown.
Walton and the Eagles are looking toward bigger goals, though.
"We have a complete team. I think we can make a push," Walton said. "I want to make a deep run and get to the Breslin Center. This is my last year, so the only thing I want to do is win as a team, go out my senior year with a bang."
Chandler Park Academy coach - and Walton's father - Derrick Walton, Sr. thinks his team is set up for a deep run as well.
"We are bigger. We have to play mentally focused basketball, and it's up to me to make sure those guys get in at the proper time," Walton, Sr. said. "When you get a little hype, sometimes as a coach, you can mess it up. I don't want to mess it up. I'm trying to hold onto it and get it to the right point where we gel.
"We want to win our division, and we want to win a State title. For Derrick, hopefully he can get Mr. Basketball, and maybe named a McDonald's All-American."
Walton, Sr., has enjoyed watching his son develop into the blue-chip prospect he is now, rated the No. 47 overall prospect in the 2013 class.
"He can see things that most kids - probably most adults - can't when he's out there," Walton said. "I'm blessed to have him as a son and as a player.
"He's a really smart player, and his IQ got a little higher this year. He really understands what we're trying to do offensively, and can direct the whole floor. I want him to keep his foot on the pedal. Other than that, he's been awesome."
"I wanted to focus on how I controlled the tempo of the game and how I got my guys involved, scoring," added Walton, Jr. "I have played the game so much that I can see things before they happen, and I can make adjustments to things I see on the floor. Basically, just studying the game has helped me on the floor."
Although Walton's offensive game has taken huge strides in the last 18 months, he still takes pride in his tenacious style of defensive - which has led to a ton of transition opportunities for the Eagles this season.
"That's a big thing. Scoring is going to be easy, but stopping the other team, that is how you win championships," Walton said. "That's my main thing: stop people and make sure my team comes out with the win.
"I'm pretty fast, so I like to get the ball out and get quick buckets. You get the ball out and set up easy shots, if you can get out there before the other team can set up its defense."
Walton is focused on his senior season, but it's impossible not to look ahead at Michigan and get excited.
He has been up to Ann Arbor for five games this season, and watching the young team gel has been a huge source of motivation from the soon-to-be freshman.
"It's exciting. Everyone wants to talk to me about how Michigan is playing. I'm just happy to be a part of it," Walton said. "When I get there, I'm going to take the role they give me and take it in stride.
"It's exciting. My dream, ever since I knew about college basketball was to come in as a freshman and make an impact very early. Coming in and playing with other talented guys, it's going to make it easier. It's going to be fun."
Walton, Sr. has enjoyed watching the top-ranked Wolverines blossom, too.
"It's been a blessing, watching how they have developed that young team with a mixture of a few veterans," Walton, Sr. said. "It's good. With him coming into the mix with Zak [Irvin] and Mark [Donnal], I think once they get on campus, they're going to be fine.
"I just want to watch. No more coaching him, no more hollering at him. I can sit back, as dad, and enjoy him. Knowing him, he's a smart kid. He'll adjust to that level of play quickly."