The highlight reels are creating a buzz.
But if you are just watching 5-foot-11 to maybe 6-foot Leland Walker’s dunks, you are missing the larger story.
In a July 4 AAU contest at The Factory in Indianapolis, the Team Teague point guard was standing nose-to-nose with an opponent, jawing about something.
Perhaps Walker was feeling festive on the holiday, because fireworks ensued.
Before anyone knew what happened, Walker had stormed full speed down to the other end and scored, defenders left waving away the smoke from the Independence Day explosion.
It was like Walker had been shot out of a cannon, fueled by anger. The scenario seemed to play out multiple times that day. You piss off Walker — you pay.
Somewhere watching a live stream, IU head coach Archie Miller took notice.
Indiana has needed players that have a bit of an edge about them since Miller arrived. That’s how Miller played during his time at N. C. State when he was an undersized guard in the ACC, and he has that same fire as a coach.
It didn’t take long for Indiana’s recruitment of Walker to change.
The Daily Hoosier broke the news the next day that Miller had reached out to the class of 2022 guard the following morning.
Per a source, #iubb head coach Archie Miller called 2022 in state PG Leland Walker this morning after a dominant showing on Saturday. Same source: “That’s your 2022 Mr Basketball.”
— Mike Schumann @ The Daily Hoosier (@daily_hoosier) July 5, 2020
A more lengthy Monday night conversation followed, and from there Indiana’s recruitment of Walker has changed significantly.
Prior to Walker’s 4th of July breakout, there was dialogue with IU, but it wasn’t much. Now? Indiana’s focus has turned on a dime much like Walker flips a switch when he has been wronged on the basketball court.
“They are trying to recruit me and get close to me and get me down there as soon as we can,” Walker said of Indiana’s recent contact. “They talk to me or shoot a text almost every day now.”
Indiana’s message to Walker is clear.
“They told me that they think that I’m the best 2022 guard, and they need a guard,” he told The Daily Hoosier.
While the recruitment has intensified, Walker has been on IU’s radar for a long time.
He took an unofficial visit to Bloomington as a freshman, and his performance as an underclassman in high school was impossible to ignore.
As a sophomore at North Central High School on the north side of Indianapolis, Walker averaged 20 points, 4 assists and 2 steals per game to lead the Panthers to a 12-10 record for the 2019-20 season.
Walker is undersized according to Big Ten norms, but he has multiple elite attributes and skills that make his height less of a factor.
What is Walker’s own self-assessment of his strengths on the court?
“My athleticism and how I am able to come off screens and play with my team instead of going one-on-one,” Walker said.
There is no denying Walker’s athleticism, but there is more to his game that stands out.
Walker is effective when playing fast too, with an ability to get downhill before defenses can get set up. Playing up tempo with a bulldog mentality, Walker gets to the rim and is very crafty finishing against length and through contact.
With range beyond the college three-point line, toughness, and that high-end speed, quickness, and athleticism, Walker is likely to start earning more noteworthy offers.
Right now Xavier is the lone high major school to offer, with IU, Purdue, Butler and many others showing heavy interest.
Even just talking about which schools are involved brings out a little bit of Walker’s edge.
“I really don’t care who offers, high majors, mid-majors, I just want to go somewhere where I can do me, be a leader,” Walker said.
His next challenge will be to focus that athleticism and tenacity down to the other end of the floor.
And Walker knows it.
“My defense, I’ve got to get way better at being defensively dialed-in,” he said.
High end lateral quickness and toughness on the ball are mission-critical attributes in Miller’s pack-line defense, and Walker has no doubt heard that from the IU head coach and lead assistant Mike Roberts.
With Rob Phinisee on track to graduate and Khristian Lander almost certainly not a four year player, IU projects to have a clear need for a point guard in the 2022 class.
The competition for Indiana’s attention at the position is steep.
The in-state class of 2022 is loaded with high end primary ball handlers. Westfield’s Braden Smith and Cathedral’s Tayshawn Comer are likely on the high major path along with Walker.
And Indiana has already offered scholarships to coveted out-of-state targets like Georgia’s Bruce Thornton.
But Walker does know how to stand out in a crowd.
As the highlights below from the Fourth of July illustrate, Walker can not only dunk, he knows how to bring down a house.
He had the crowd electrified at The Factory in Indianapolis after he pulled off a windmill on July 4.
Is he surprising himself with his mid-air feats?
“Not really, I just try to go up and see what I can do, Walker said.
“And it has turned out real well.”
Walker’s recruitment is now on track to turn out well too.
OMGoodness 2022 Team Teague/North Central PG Leland Walker anout to blow up. Sensational Electrifying PG runs his team with tremendous athletism. @LelandWalker02 @TeamTeagueindy @TeamTeague2022 #inthegymhoops #4thofJuly2020 @KyleNeddenriep @ThefactoryD1 pic.twitter.com/Wf7wAHXCmu
— In The Gym Hoops (@inthegymhoops_) July 4, 2020
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