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Brea-Olinda's Kevin Walker Measuring Up

December 18, 1985|TOM HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

Gene Lloyd, Brea-Olinda High School coach, could hardly believe his eyes. Lloyd was watching his 9-year-old son play in a recreation league and noticed one of the players dominating the game.

"The kid was the same age as my son, but he was taller and more coordinated than anyone else on the floor," Lloyd recalled. "Even then, I knew he was going to be something special."

Lloyd was right. Kevin Walker, then a third-grade prodigy, was something special.

As a sixth-grader, Walker was six inches taller than his classmates. By the eighth grade, Walker was 6-feet-5 and the leading scorer for Brea Junior High, which was 29-1.

As early as junior high, Walker abandoned swimming and baseball to concentrate on basketball. He worked diligently with Lloyd on his mobility and shooting skills in anticipation of a standout prep career.

The game was about to become a year-round obsession. He spent the school year playing for the Wildcats and the summers traveling to Las Vegas, Santa Barbara and Phoenix for games and camps.

Walker matured into a 6-10 center with the reputation of being one of the country's best shooting big men. He realized a lifelong dream last month by signing a national letter of intent with UCLA.

Success has followed Walker throughout his career, but so have high expectations. When you're the biggest player, you're supposed to be the best.

Some claim Walker plays soft. They say he won't mix it up inside or fight for a rebound. He won't block shots. He's not intimidating on defense.

"Everyone looks at me and says, 'Oh yeah, you're a center,' " Walker said. "But posting up and playing a power game is not my game. I'm more comfortable on the perimeter. I'm a forward with a good touch and good range.

"I have confidence in my game. But I'm afraid people might be expecting too much. They read where I'm 6-10, and I'm supposed to be the dominating center who is going to supply the missing inside game at UCLA. But that's not my game."

Walker's forte is shooting. He stunned several of Southern California's leading prep players recently at the Forum where they gathered for a publicity shot.

Walker stepped behind the three-point line on the Forum floor and started swishing jump shots. You'd almost swear there's a guard trapped inside his frame.

"I've never seen anyone on the high school level that's Kevin's size and can match his shooting range," Lloyd said. "He scored 26 points in the first half against Orange last week and all of those were outside shots.

"He followed that with 27 points in the first half against Eisenhower. He has the range of a guard. He is also an excellent passer and ballhandler."

No one ever doubted Walker's shooting skills. He averaged 58% from the field in three years as a starter. This season, he is trying to improve on rebounding.

"More and more, I'm able to go inside and get some rebounds," Walker said. "I've tried to improve my offensive rebounding and play a more physical type of basketball. I did some weightlifting this summer, and I think I'm stronger and more confident.

"Once the season is over, I'll start lifting again. I know I have to get stronger to play in college. I usually take some time off in the summer, but I can't afford to this year."

One of Walker's favorite pastimes is watching the Bruins. He spent last Saturday afternoon watching UCLA lose to St. John's on national television. Later that day, he scored 30 points in the Sonora Tournament.

"I enjoy watching UCLA games," he said. "Now, I watch their games and try to see where I'll fit in. I think I'll fit in real well. Hopefully, by my sophomore year, I'll be making a major contribution to their program."

But is Walker tough enough to play major college basketball? Perhaps.

Scouts said they noticed a subtle change in Walker's game this summer. He was matched against Carson's 6-10 center, Clifford Allen, and became embroiled in a shoving match inside. Allen threw an elbow and then a punch. Walker required 12 stitches to close two cuts.

The questions persist, but the expectations won't go away. Lloyd claims that prep superstars such as Katella's Bob Erbst, Hacienda Heights Wilson's Scott Williams and Walker will find it difficult measuring up.

"The average fan looks at a player like Kevin or Scott Williams and expects him to carry a team by himself," Lloyd said. "Basketball is not an individual sport. It's asking too much for any one player to carry a team in high school, college or the pros.

"I watched Erbst, Williams and Walker last week in the Sonora Tournament. You could feel the pressure on them to produce for their teams. But they're only one player in a five-man game."

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