Big decisions coming for Jarace Walker as NBA dream focuses: ‘He can see it.’ – The Evening Sun - Techy Hunters

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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Big decisions coming for Jarace Walker as NBA dream focuses: ‘He can see it.’ – The Evening Sun

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Watch basketball standout Jarace Walker practice in the gym

Jarace Walker

Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record

ELKRIDGE, Md.  — Jarace Walker kept resetting his basketball metronome during one more summer workout.

One dribble, shoot.

Two dribbles, shoot again.

Dribble between his legs and shoot more.

Always, he kept an eye on that magical blue arc on the floor, 23 feet, nine inches from the basket.

During the second half of a recent hour-long shooting barrage, maybe 200 attempts in all, Walker never stepped any closer.

That’s the distance of the 3-point line in the NBA, longer than from where he shoots in high school at the IMG Academy in Florida. Longer, too, than a 3-pointer in college, where he intends to play next year.

If there’s one thing the 6-foot-8 New Freedom native — and one of the top high school seniors in the nation — can do better, it’s become more consistent shooting from long distance.

The blue line is a reminder.

“That’s where I’m trying to get to,” Walker said of the NBA

“Because that’s the goal …,” said Donnell “Mookie” Dobbins, who has trained and coached Walker in AAU basketball for nearly a decade now.

Walker drives an hour from York County to Route 1 Athletics, the sports training facility Dobbins runs with business partner and strength and conditioning coach Chris Hannigan. Walker has come here every free day this summer, which has not been easy while touring the country for camps, tournaments and recruiting visits.

He longs for his days here, though, the four and five hours doing flexibility work, lifting weights, on-court drills and cooling down with massages, ice pools and saunas.

Ever since he began taking basketball seriously as a fifth-grader he’s looked to play on the biggest, brightest and richest stage possible, the NBA. And now he’s closer than ever.

Three of his former teammates at IMG were recently drafted into the league. He’s played against some of the NBA’s hottest prospects over the past three years, including Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 pick this year.

More: YAIAA basketball stars are leaving for prep schools. Why it’s happening and is it worth it?

More: Former York-Adams basketball star commits to prestigious NCAA Division I program

Walker knows he could skip college altogether to play for money next summer, if he truly wanted.

But he views big-time college basketball as the proper proving ground, even if just for a year or two. He’s the youngest of four siblings, two who have played college sports.

His next steps to reaching the NBA are finishing his high school career strong for one of the top programs in the country and choosing a college destination.

“He’s more focused than I’ve ever seen him. … At first, (the NBA) was a dream, now it’s starting to be tangible. He’s believing more than dreaming now,” Dobbins said.

“He has relationships with probably 15 to 20 players who were drafted in the first round. Those are his peers. He shared a locker room with three of those guys. He’s like, ‘I’m up next.’ He can see it.”

And Dobbins, who has coached dozens of professional players and works closely with Will Barton of the Denver Nuggets, believes Walker’s future offers no ceiling. He turns 18 on Sept. 4.

More: How an NBA star is helping York County’s Jarace Walker achieve pro basketball dreams

“I think it’s really up to him. I think he can be a perennial NBA all-star if he commits to that and locks in on that,” Dobbins said.  

“I see it over and over. I know players who are in the NBA. I’ve seen that path and I’ve seen them in this stage of their development, and he’s way ahead of them.”

For now, Walker is a consensus 5-star recruit, the highest rating possible. National industry sites rank him as a Top 15 player in his class. Respected 247Sports experts, for example, list him as the No. 9 overall prospect and the top power forward in the country.

“Walker has the frame, the broad shoulders and the length to pop immediately (in college). On the floor, you see how hard he competes, and that may be his greatest skillset,” Jamie Shaw, a national recruiting analyst with Rivals, writes in his player evaluation.

Walker has earned scholarship offers from more than 20 schools, including traditional powers such as North Carolina and Connecticut. He seems most interested, though, in rising powers he’s visited recently, including Alabama, Auburn, Houston and Ohio State. He said he may also still take fall visits to Texas, LSU and USC.

Distance is no factor. He’s already conquered the move to Florida by himself, just before he would have started the ninth grade at Susquehannock. He helped IMG win a national championship as a freshman and developed into a starter and team leader the past two years. 

He plans to make a college decision this fall, just as he begins to lead IMG back to top national status.

Meanwhile, he continues to refine one of the rarest basketball combinations of size and athleticism.

His size 16 feet and his powerful legs helped him dunk a basketball as a seventh grader. Now they enable him to easily clear 3-foot high bars from a standing jump in training drills.

He’s become a leaner 233 pounds to help with his quickness and agility on a frame that could easily carry much more as he continues to mature.

He looked more fluid and sharp during those recent shooting drills than the handful of older college and pro players on the other side of the court at Route 1 Athletics.

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This dunking 8th grader tries to stay grounded

Jarace Walker, an 8th grader at Southern Middle School is quickly becoming a recognized face in the YAIAA basketball world.

Jason Plotkin, York Daily Record

“The sky’s the limit. Special. LeBron-ish,” Dobbins said, describing Walker’s potential.

“He can make every pass on the floor, can make every read on the floor, can guard every position on defense. He has that type of versatility.  He can do what a point guard does, he can do what a center does. That’s a gift.”

Those closest to him say his biggest improvement over the past year has been maturing beyond most anyone else his age. He’s fared well so far under the increasing attention and expectations, and even disappointments, so far from home.

Two years ago he couldn’t find a way to lead IMG back to the national playoffs. Last year he missed half of the season after suffering a stress fracture in his fibula and tearing ankle ligaments.

He’s so laid back, even on the court at times, that he’s still learning how to best play with a full fire. Especially before opponents begin trash talking and fouling him hard.

He owns a certain comfort in knowing the things he can still improve upon and having trusted sources to lead him. Just like older sister, Jaden, now a third-year scholarship player at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. They are the best of friends and often train together. She’s always there to listen and even advise.

It’s all part of his next step to conquer, another step closer.

“It’s really eye-opening to see how close I’m getting (to my NBA dream),” Jarace Walker said. “It’s more motivating than anything … to keep my head straight and keep working for the end goal.” 

Frank Bodani is a sportswriter for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him at fbodani@ydr.com and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState. 



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