Deshaunt Walker leads Stephen F. Austin to second NCAA Tournament appearance

Deshaunt Walker’s confidence entering Friday’s second-round game against fifth-seeded VCU doesn’t solely rest in the madness of March, the prior success of No. 12 seeds, or in the few pundits who have predicted that he and his Stephen F. Austin teammates will pull off the upset.

Instead, the senior guard can simply look at his own resume to find reason for optimism. Walker has won championships at nearly every level of basketball, hoisting two Maryland state title trophies at Springbrook High in 2009 and 2010, an NJCAA Division I crown at South Plains College, and this year’s Southland Conference title, while averaging 12 points per game for the Lumberjacks.

Springbrook alum Deshaunt Walker hopes to lead Stephen F. Austin on a deep run in the NCAA Tournament (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post).
Springbrook alum Deshaunt Walker hopes to lead Stephen F. Austin on a deep run in the NCAA Tournament (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post).

Walker took the time to talk with Recruiting Insider about his decorated past, unique college journey and what it’s like to take a chartered flight.

Recruiting Insider: What’s your favorite memory from your high school career?
Walker: My junior year we went undefeated and won the state title. That was a big accomplishment, but when we went it again my senior year, I played a bigger role on the team, so that was my most memorable time.

RI: Going undefeated and then winning back-to-back titles isn’t easy on the Maryland public basketball scene. What was special about those teams that allowed you guys to accomplish that feat?
Walker: Just going through the struggle. The hard practices that let us gel together, and we all were hungry to win. We didn’t know we would go undefeated at first, but as the season went on and we hit a 20-game streak, we were like, “Man, we can finish this thing out.” We all got along well. There were no cancers on the team. We just had fun out there.

RI: What was it like making the transition to junior college and being in Texas so far away from home?
Walker: When I first got out (to South Plains), I was calling home like everyday because the area was so dry and nothing was there but Walmart. But it helped having some players from the Maryland area like Dunbar’s Darrell Edwards. We became good friends and once we got comfortable, we were able to finish those years strong.

RI: At what point did you start to feel comfortable?
Walker: Probably midway through my first year. We wasn’t as good as we were my sophomore year when we went undefeated and won the junior college championship, but as we went through some ups and downs as a team that first year, we came together and you could tell we were going to be good the next year. The whole community loved us and I got real comfortable with the team and area.

RI: In your first year at Stephen F. Austin, you were more of a reserve, but this year you’re the team’s fourth-leading scorer and you played a big part in you guys reaching this point. What have you done to improve your game and be ready for this moment?
Walker: I just waited my turn. I didn’t get down on myself because I didn’t play as much last year. We got a new coaching staff and they gave me the green light to score and just play. That helped me get comfortable and I’m fortunate to have played a part in us making the tournament.

RI: I’m sure you hope to make more memories once you guys play Friday, but what’s been the best part of the tournament experience so far?
Walker: Well, first we started with a great sendoff from our fans at school. Then once we got to the airport, we didn’t have to take a commercial flight; we took a chartered flight, which was a good feeling. Then we had media day and an open practice. The whole experience is just great.

RI: So the chartered flight was pretty nice, huh?
Walker: Oh man, that was nice. You get a whole big seat to yourself where you can stretch out your legs and put up your feet. It’s only your teammates, coaches, the band and cheerleaders on the flight, so it’s real nice to have the plane to yourself. And then when we got off the plane, the buses are waiting for you to take you to the hotel. I could get used to that (laughs).

RI: What are the keys to you guys pulling off the upset against VCU and making a run?
Walker: We’ve prepared well up to this point, so we just need to play like we’ve been playing. We’ve won 28 games in a row, so we don’t necessarily feel like underdogs. Making the tournament is something you dream of and hopefully we can win some games and make it a real memorable experience.

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