Talk to anyone on the high school basketball scene in the state of Michigan and they will tell you that Derrick Walton took his game to another level last year. The Chandler Park Academy star silenced all doubters of his talents and worthiness of his Michigan offer with an aggressive edge that helped him become a lethal scorer. Now in his senior season he is hoping to elevate his game even higher. But how does one top a year that saw him explode for 47 points in a playoff victory and culminated with outplaying five-star Florida commit, Kasey Hill en route to an Adidas Super 64 title? To his father/coach the answer is simple, put your team on your back against one of the most difficult schedules in the state and lead it to prosperity.
“Everybody was just calling me asking me (for games),” Derrick Walton Sr. said. “They said in the first game you play Cass Tech. I said, ‘that’s not a problem. I didn’t want to schedule a game versus a cupcake and then have to come back the next week and have to play a strong team anyway.’ Cass was ranked #6 according to the newspaper. Then we face James Young, #1 player in the state. Then we play (Detroit) Southeastern, the #4 team in the state. Then we come back and play Hyde Park… they’re supposed to be the #7 team in Chicago. Then we came back and play the #1 team in the state… (Detroit) Pershing. Then in January we play Saginaw, the #2 team in the state.”
“Everybody said to me they want a piece of Derrick. My thing was, hey if you want a piece… I’ll give you a piece. It may not be that piece you want, but you’re going to get a piece! That was just my mentality. And to be honest, I want him to play the best. Let them know that what he is doing is not just against our conference folks… he is going to do that against anybody.”
Young Walton proved up to the challenge Saturday evening when he propelled his team to a 61-56 victory over Detroit Douglass. The future Wolverine poured in 27 points, but the contest wound up being a little too close for comfort with Chandler Park having to fend off a comeback attempt at the end.
“Their press bothered us, but it shouldn’t have,” stated Walton Sr. “My guys weren’t patient enough with the press. We tried to put Derrick in the middle so that once we broke the press we’d at least have a two-on-one or three-on-one, but they kind of denied it. At that point my kids were shell-shocked a little bit, but at the end of the day we held on.”
As usual, the coach’s son played a key role in hanging onto the victory… but not without some not so subtle prodding from dad. The elder Walton’s objection was audible.
“Stop passing the ball!”
“I was just trying to tell Derrick it’s crunch time,” he explained. “You’re a big time player… go get the ball! He likes to sit back and defer. I told him, ‘the game is on the line, man!’ Big time players make big time plays and he had to go get the ball.”
“He is the only returning starter and I told him you might have to take more shots and be more aggressive this year. He might have taken 12 shots (Saturday). I didn’t say anything to him about it, but I really wanted to tell him, ‘that wasn’t enough shots!’ But he is just an unselfish kid. I can’t change that perspective about his game. It is what it is and he is what he is. I tell him all the time… he can score when he wants to score.”
While young Walton could stand to be little more selfish at times, part of what makes him so impressive is his ability to elevate the games of those around him. He sees two and three moves ahead. That often results in pinpoint passes to wide open teammates that they aren’t ready for. But even those instances Walton shines. He never lets his teammates see him sweat. Besides, he knows his teammates will find out what they did wrong from the bench.
“I think the patience might come from his mom,” Walton Sr. said. “I’ll give her that credit. Me…. I would have been on their heads… me being a point guard myself. He feels like I get on them enough. I guess he feels like his approach to it has to be a little different than mine. I’m going to be on their heads! When they miss passes I’m going to tell them, ‘you’ve got to catch the ball!’ Derrick might just look at them or give them a hand slap. He just has a different approach.”
Together the dueling approaches seem to be working just fine.
For highlights form Saturday night's game, press play below.