“You’ve got to have backspin, and make sure you follow through.”
Those words were told to Dantley Walker so often by his father, Greg, that they became a mission statement for his basketball career.
Dad’s counsel wound up being the recipe for a pure shooter who has blasted holes in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association record book.
Dantley Walker, a senior point guard at Class 2A Lincoln County, is only 138 points away from becoming the first player in state history to score 3,000 career points, according to the NIAA record book.
He’s already second all-time in the state with 2,862 points, trailing only Portland Trail Blazers rookie Luke Babbitt, who scored 2,941 points at Galena from 2005 to 2008.
How does someone score 62 points in a game, draw applause from opposing crowds, and become a did-you-hear-what-he-did sensation throughout Southern Nevada?
“I don’t have video games. My dad took my PlayStation away when I was little,” Dantley Walker said. “Everybody’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re always in the gym.’ I could be watching TV, but I would just feel lazy.
“It’s always eating at me to get into the gym. If I’m sitting at home, I’m thinking I should be shooting right now or improving something.”
All basketball, all the time
Dantley Walker isn’t sure when he became a self-described “gym rat.” After being named in honor of former NBA great Adrian Dantley, basketball seemed to come to him almost from the womb.
Greg Walker traces his son’s love of basketball to age 3, when Dantley used to perform halftime dribbling shows for the crowd at Chaparral, one of Greg’s early coaching stops.
“We actually started way back then with dribbling,” said Greg Walker, who played basketball at Moapa Valley and is now an assistant coach at Lincoln County. “In the halftimes of our (Chaparral) games, he used to go out and do dribbling shows for the crowd. Left hand, right hand; everybody was amazed.”
The Walkers moved from Las Vegas to Panaca in 1996 for Greg’s teaching career, and the town of about 800 residents has been home ever since.
It wasn’t until seventh grade when Dantley Walker began perfecting his jump shot.
“That’s when I fell in love with basketball. I just shot every day,” he said.
When the time finally came to don a Lynx uniform at the start of the 2007-08 season, Dantley Walker was ready for the high school stage.
As a freshman, he was a key contributor on Lincoln County’s 2A state title team, scoring 13 points in a 78-69 win over Needles in the championship game.
The 5-foot-11-inch sharpshooter’s numbers ballooned from there, with averages of 26.4 points per game as a sophomore, 32.5 as a junior and 32.3 so far this season.
Along with the gaudy statistics came a reputation as a clutch player.
Among the more memorable finishes was a 91-84 win over Lake Mead in the title game of the 2009 Lake Mead Holiday Classic. Dantley Walker scored 26 of his 47 points in the fourth quarter, including 18 in a five-minute stretch.
“If it’s a chaotic game, up and down, we won’t lose,” Lincoln County head coach Mike Wood said. “If it’s close, we don’t lose. That’s why: because of Dantley. It has nothing to do with what I’m doing or what (Greg Walker) is doing; it’s Dantley.”
Though he’ll likely become the first player in state history to surpass 3,000 points, Dantley Walker doesn’t even view scoring as his trademark.
Dantley Walker takes more pride in his state assists record of 773, including an average of 9.8 per game this season.
“Passing and setting up my teammates, that’s my favorite part of the game; always has been,” he said. “I consider myself a pass-first point guard who has to score for our team to be successful. I think (passing) is my biggest strength.”
Dantley Walker has mastered the entry pass over the years and developed a knack for finding players as soon as they become open.
“He can win it with his scoring or passing,” Wood said. “When he has to score, it’s out of necessity.”
Necessity struck for Lincoln County on Jan. 7, when Dantley Walker hit 10 3-pointers on his way to 62 points in a 100-97 overtime win over Needles. The 62 points is the second-highest total in state history, according to the NIAA record book, behind only the 70 scored by Jim Summers of Douglas in 1952.
“The other night, he had an off game,” Wood said of a loss to Agassi Prep, then with a pause, added, “he scored 27.”
A college future
Dantley Walker is just beginning to build momentum on the recruiting trail, with Montana State, Utah State, Utah Valley, Brigham Young and Weber State among the schools that have expressed interest.
Greg Walker is confident a Division I scholarship offer will come soon for his son, who has several offers to play at Division II or junior college programs.
A Utah State assistant watched Dantley Walker’s 62-point game, and Brigham Young associate head coach Dave Rice watched him score 42 in a win over Enterprise (Utah) last season.
Still, Dantley Walker has faced question marks whether he can play at the Division I level because of his size and playing in 2A.
It doesn’t hurt his case that he played in the respected Las Vegas Prospects summer program after his sophomore year before playing with a Utah team last summer.
There is also evidence that shows Dantley Walker isn’t only dominant against 2A competition.
Dantley Walker has averaged 30.4 points in five games against 4A teams the past two years, and the Lynx went 4-1 in those games. In the only loss, he scored 22 against Western on Dec. 10.
“I’ve watched basketball in the state of Nevada since Matt Othick was playing for Bishop Gorman and Daryl Christopher for Western,” Wood said. “This kid can play with them, believe me. I’ve watched them all.
“He’ll get a chance somewhere. It’s just kind of an uphill battle because of where we live and his size. I’d like to see one of these schools give him a chance. They wouldn’t regret it.”
Dantley Walker has received most of his recruiting attention from schools in Utah because he plans to serve an LDS Church mission after high school, meaning it could be two years before he steps on the college hardwood.
“Most likely he’ll end up in Utah somewhere playing ball,” Greg Walker said. “They work a little better than the other states (by) saying, ‘We’ll hold this for two years.’”
Because the NCAA spring signing period isn’t until April, Dantley Walker has time to make a decision on his future. For now, he’s focused on returning the Lynx to the state glory of his freshman season.
Lincoln County reached the state title game last year, losing 71-64 to Incline. The memory has given Dantley Walker extra fuel as he tries to earn another ring.
“We came so close last year. We barely missed it, and all I’ve been thinking about is getting this team back to state and winning two games instead of one,” he said.
Dantley Walker said he hasn’t invested much thought in what his legacy will be once his high school career ends.
“Hopefully they enjoyed watching me play,” he said. “Hopefully I represented the school well and represented Lincoln County.”
And, as the record book will tell, all of Nevada.