On The Court Or With A Camera, Destinee Walker Takes Great Shots

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Destinee Walker, the most recent North Carolina commit, has posed problems for opponents from Florida and beyond.

As good as Destinee Walker is at playing basketball, she might be even more skilled in another one of her favorite hobbies.

Earlier this month, Walker, a 5-foot-9 rising senior combo guard at Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, Florida), had a breakout performance when she helped lead Team USA to the gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 finals.

But in between games?

Courtesy Destinee Walker

Of course, Destinee Walker took a selfie with her gold medal.

"She's the selfie queen," said her mother, Sharon Walker, a physical education instructor at Bethune-Cookman University and an assistant coach at Lake Highland.

Erin Deery, who was a senior shooting guard and co-captain at Lake Highland this past season, said there have been many times when she has been in a store with her teammates, and people have stopped and asked whether Walker is a model.

"She's kind of an exotic beauty, and she's so confident," said Deery, who will play Division III basketball this season at Rhodes College in Memphis. "Destinee tends to walk around a store like she owns it."

That confidence carries over to the basketball court, where Walker is the No. 54 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz class of 2015.

She has narrowed her choice of colleges to Penn State, Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Georgia and South Carolina.

Walker, who averaged 8.8 points per game at FIBA Americas in Colorado Springs, Colorado, came off the bench against El Salvador to score 18 points, making all four of her tries from 3-point range.

Despite being the youngest player on a mega-talented team, Walker earned her respect as a deadly shooter, making 49 percent from the floor as the squad went 5-0.

Walker's shooting ability is a big reason she made the U.S. team on her first try this summer.

But her shot hasn't always been a thing of beauty. In fact, Walker said, it was downright "ugly" when she was younger.

The making of a shooter

Walker, who was born in Cleveland, Mississippi, is the daughter of two former Delta State basketball standouts -- 6-foot-6 Larry and 5-9 Sharon.

But after the couple split up -- Larry now lives in Kentucky -- Sharon and Destinee moved to Orlando.

Walker, who was 5 at the time, was almost always in the gym while her mother officiated or coached games. That passion for basketball transferred to Destinee, but the shooting form took some work.

"After my release, my right hand would go across my body to the left," Walker said. "I would push my shot -- it was really ugly."

Enter Ed Stockton, the father of one of Walker's best friends, Rachel. The family had a hoop attached to their garage, and Stockton -- who coached a youth league team called the Flames -- would spend two to three hours a day working on Walker's form.

"He really helped me with my follow-through," Walker said.

Sharon Walker said other coaches have helped, as well, including Quentin Freeman, who taught mental toughness; Al Honor, her current AAU and high school coach; and Otis Smith Jr., who has helped put some finishing touches on her game.

Impressive career

All that instruction has paid off.

Walker made the varsity as a seventh-grader and became a starter the next season.

Honor took over the Lake Highland program in Walker's freshman season, which is when her career started to truly take flight. She averaged 16.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.3 steals that season.

Walker increased her scoring average to 19.5 points as a sophomore and 25.0 as a junior, when she was named Florida Class 4A Player of the Year.

Meanwhile, Lake Highland, which won its only girls' basketball state title in 1998, has reached the regional semifinals in all three years of the Honor era, which is the furthest it has advanced since Walker arrived.

This past season, Lake Highland came excruciatingly close to going at least one step further, but the Highlanders lost 62-61 to Jones (Orlando).

Just 11 days earlier, Lake Highland had beaten Jones 66-59 in the district final. Lake Highland had lost standout guard Jordan Lewis a few days before that victory to a broken hand, but Walker stepped up and scored a career-high 38 points.

In the rematch, Lake Highland led by four points in the final minute.

But a series of calamities ensued that proves that no player is perfect. In the final minute, Walker missed the front end of a one-and-one, dribbled a ball off her foot and out of bounds, and had a potential rebound bounce off her fingertips right to an opponent for the winning layup with two seconds left.

Walker missed a half-court, desperation shot to end the game.

"I was crying," she said. "I've never felt like that before. At one point, I felt it was all my fault. I just know I never want to feel that way again."

Bright future

Better days seem sure to be in Walker's future.

She has a 3.8 weighted GPA and is interested in becoming a doctor, but, naturally, she wouldn't mind getting into some modeling after college.

"I would love to do endorsement work, especially modeling sportswear," said Walker, whose favorite class is chemistry.

She has already taken an official visit to Penn State and is planning to make Notre Dame her last trip, in October. That leaves her with three more trips, but she has yet to decide where.

"I want to go where I have the best relationship with the coaches and players," Walker said. "I want to play with players I get along with and who are good because I want to win championships."

Honor, who also coaches Walker on the Central Florida Elite AAU team, said college coaches want her as a shooting guard who can also play some at the point.

"I've known her since she was 11 or 12 years old," Honor said. "She used to play against boys her age and frustrate them because she was so long and lanky and she could really shoot the ball."

Little has changed in that regard. In the summer of Walker's eighth-grade year, Honor remembers her making 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions as college coaches at the tournament watched in amazement.

"She's an unselfish scorer," Honor said. "But this year, I plan to turn her loose."

Honor loves Walker as a player, but he doesn't agree with all that modeling talk.

"I tell her," Honor said, "'Stick to basketball.'"

Walker said she plans to do just that, playing ball as long as she can.

But before and after games, don't be surprised if her camera phone is out, snapping away.

"Goodness," Walker said when asked about her photo fascination. "I put pictures on Facebook and Instagram, and I tweet them out. I just love taking photos."

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