GCU is last stop for former hoops phenom Demetrius Walker

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                </div>Dan Majerle just signed “the next LeBron James” to play for his Grand Canyon University basketball team. Unfortunately, he’s about a decade too late.  That train has left the station […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Dan Majerle just signed “the next LeBron James” to play for his Grand Canyon University basketball team.

Unfortunately, he’s about a decade too late.  That train has left the station and what Majerle has just acquired is a scaled-down version of a 14-year-old kid that was on top of the basketball world in 2005.

Marjerle just announced the signing of Demetrius Walker, who has one year of eligibility left to give the first-year head coach who is valiantly trying to assemble a team that will be able to compete when the school moves from Division II to D-I this coming season.

(*Update 12/27/13)…Walker’s last chance at college ball ended abruptly when he was dismissed from the GCU squad for a violation of team rules.  He was the team’s leading scorer at the time.  Also dismissed was another guard, Jeff Lowery; swingman Justin Foreman was suspended indefinitely at the same time, with no indication of when he might return.)

It’s not likely that too many people remember when Walker was touted in the national media as the heir-apparent to the throne of players like LeBron and Kobe.  Newspaper and magazine articles, radio and television interviews, an internet sensation… all heralded his arrival before he even hit high school.

Arizona State fans may even have difficulty recalling his season in a Sun Devil uniform (2009-10) because he didn’t make much of a splash his first year in the college game.

But if you go back in time a little farther, his name might conjure up memories of his high-school career at St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix when he led the Knights to a 5A state title.

But, back to the LeBron James comparison.  That goes back to when Walker was a 14-year-old point guard on a middle-school basketball team in California.

He was 6’3″ tall and weighed 175 pounds and generally regarded as the best eighth-grade basketball player in the country.  The youngster played the game like he was ready for college – literally a man among boys at that age.

He came by the size rightly, even though most who witnessed his game back then were hard-pressed to believe he was still in grade school.  His father, who was not around when he was growing up, was 6’8″ and his mother, Kisha Houston, was over six feet tall.

Walker had the whole package.  Silky-smooth jump shot. Lightning-fast first step on his defender.  Combo of speed and size ala LeBron that enabled him to play inside and outside with equal skill and ease.  And a 360-degree dunk that left spectators in awe.

His first college contact came when he was 12 years old.  The University of Miami reportedly sent him a form letter that would become just the tip of the iceberg, as most of the top college programs in the nation would eventually come calling.

Somehow, he wound up at Arizona State for his freshman season, playing for Herb Sendek.  He hadn’t grown into the physical specimen that had been anticipated by recruiters and was listed at 6’3″ and 195 pounds that year.  He played in just 23 games and started just one, averaging 10.5 minutes and four points a game.  His high game was 14 points on the road against Washington in the late stages of the season.

It became apparent that it was going to be an uphill battle to get into the starting line-up in Tempe, so he decided to try his hand in New Mexico, playing for Steve Alford’s Lobos.  During his three years there, he still wasn’t able to get his game to the level most had expected of the young phenom when he was just entering his teens.

At New Mexico, he redshirted after leaving ASU and then continued to struggle to put together an offensive game the next two years, averaging 7.4 points and 16.8 minutes a game during the 2011-12 season, and then played just over 15 minutes a game last season, averaging 5 points a game.  His best scoring output was 22 points in the season’s exhibition opener.

He also didn’t quite finish his last season as a Lobo.  Alford suspended him for what was termed “a violation of team rules”  just before going into the conference tournament and the kid from Arizona sat out the final 10 games of his career in Albuquerque.  Three weeks after his suspension, he left the team for “an unspecified reason.”  He graduated from New Mexico in May, which, according to NCAA rules, left him with a year of eligibility.

And now Majerle apparently is willing to take on a 22-year-old former phenom with one year left in the tank and some left-over baggage from his run-in with his previous coach.  But he’s making it sound like it will be worth taking the chance.

“It is good to have him here at GCU, as he brings with him a lot of experience and can score the basketball” Majerle said in announcing the acquisition.  “He will be big for our team next season, having a guy that we can go to.”

It has been a lot of years since Walker was considered the “go-to guy.’   But maybe Majerle will have more success with re-creating that former player than either Sendek or Alford did.

Or maybe Walker will be more motivated to get there this season since it’s his last chance to prove he can do it.

Either way, it’s probably worth a shot.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)