November 18, 2008

Walker signs with ASU

Demetrius Walker announced his intention to play basketball at Arizona State in a Tuesday morning press conference at Phoenix St. Mary's, the school where he enrolled after moving from San Juan Capistrano, California several months ago.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, ranked No. 112 overall and No. 25 at the shooting guard position in the 2009 national class, verbally committed to USC in August, but decided to re-examine his recruitment in recent months.

He kept his thoughts close to the vest until the start of the fall signing period last Wednesday, when he did not sign a letter of intent with the Trojans. Two days later, he took an official visit to ASU, making it clear he was considering an alternate destination.

"As soon as I got here (in early September), I still in my heart thought I was going to sign with USC," Walker said Tuesday. "But then it came down to that last week before I singed and I saw all the guys they had coming in that play my position and the guys they had returning and I was like, 'Whoa. I've got to look more into this.'

"The day of signing when all my teammates were signing and everybody else was signing, I just didn't have that gut feeling that would be a good fit for me. So I decided to look into it more, made a call to Arizona State to see if I could go up there and visit and see things and went up there and had an amazing visit and fell in love with it."

Walker's mother had long been pushing him to take a look at other schools, as far back as the time of his commitment to USC.

"She was like, 'Maybe you should look at some other schools' and she mentioned Arizona State," Walker said. "I said, 'I don't know mom, I like USC.' At the time they didn't have all those guys committed, all the guards and everything like that. At that time I thought I could come in and be a big impact player. When they committed all those guys, I just decided to go on an official visit to Arizona State and see how it felt.

"My mother lives out here now. I want to be close to her. She always wanted me to go to ASU from the beginning. So when it came down to it that was part of my decision. I wanted to go where my mother wanted me to go and also where I thought it would be a great fit, and Arizona State just happened to be a really good fit."

Both Walker and his mother, who asked that her name not be published due to her career in law enforcement, said that ASU's coaching staff made a good impression.

"I just feel that Arizona State is going to be a better program for me," Walker said Tuesday. "USC is a great program, great school. I have nothing against those guys. I have been committed to them for four months. But when it came down to decision time, I just felt like Arizona State would be a better fit.

"[ASU] want me to come in and play. They didn't tell me exactly what I'm going to do. They just told me they believe in my talents and believe in my abilities to come in and perform right off the bat. Where as USC, they were just, 'Hey, you're going to come in, you're going to play, but whatever happens, happens.' Arizona State was right to the point: "You're going to play, you're going to perform, you're going to be a big impact in our program.

"The coaching staff was unbelievable. They were at my every need for whatever I needed. They were just unbelievable. That's all I could really say. The coaching staff was amazing."

With James Harden likely to depart for the NBA following this season, the impression Walker got from ASU coaches was that he could play a big role as a freshmen, and possibly even earn a starting role.

"I could come in and be a big impact player right away rather than going to USC and competing with all those guards and everybody they have coming in," Walker said. "Not saying I don't like competition but at the same time you do have to be smart about this decision."

The journey to this point has been a long one for Walker, certainly much more so than the typical high school senior.

As early as sixth grade, Walker was receiving national attention from magazines including Sports Illustrated as the next big thing in basketball. He physically matured very early, dunking a ball while still in elementary school and reaching his current height while still in junior high school.

Expectations were out of control, and Walker had what amounted to a difficult stretch early in his high school career as a result. More recently, he's re-focused his efforts on simply being the best that he is capable of, rather than living up to the entirely unrealistic assumptions put upon a young teenager.

"Coming up, having all the hype on my shoulders, having all the publicity since I was in sixth grad -- it's really been stressful but I've come a lot way," Walker said. "All the hard work has finally paid off. Now I have something my mother won't have to pay for the next four years. She can focused on what she's doing. She won't have to pay for my education any more. I'm really happy about that."

Walker could be sidelined for up to a month with a bothersome knee, but St. Mary's coach Dave Lopez said his new player has done everything asked of him to this point.

"He's fit in really well," Lopez said. "The nice thing I'm impressed with is he's respected our talent and our program and our philosophy. He's just trying to fit in and help us win a championship. That's really impressive, especially for a player of his caliber."

With Walker's decision, the Sun Devils have a fall class of three recruits. The others are Rivals100 wing Trent Lockett and import center Ruslan Pateev.

Demetrius Walker scouting report via recruiting analyst Jerry Mayer:

A power guard, Walker has a frame ready for the college game. He makes plays with his athleticism, but also has a solid skill set. As a scorer, Walker loves to attack the basket but also has the outside shooting stroke to keep the defense honest.

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