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How Top Sophomore Prospect Megan Walker Is Keeping Things Classy

Megan Walker, the No. 1 prospect in the 2017 class, says she's looking for a school that fits her academically, athletically and socially. Josh Mathews/VillageNews

When Megan Walker was 4, she regularly tagged along when her dad took her big brother to his basketball practices and games.

Then came the time when she was not allowed to go because she'd be arriving home too late in the night.

It's a wonder the tear stains don't remain today.

"We had thought that Megan just wanted to hang out with her dad and brother," said her mother, Johnetta. "But she was actually watching everything they were doing.

"Soon after that, she asked me if she could play basketball."

Walker, now a sophomore at Monacan (Richmond, Virginia), has grown into a 6-foot-1 shooting guard and the nation's No. 1 player in the espnW HoopGurlz Class Terrific 25 for the 2017 class.

Her coach at Monacan, Larry Starr, started to hear about Walker when she was in sixth grade, but he didn't think much of it because her middle school, Manchester, is not in his district.

Starr finally saw her play when she was in eighth grade. It was the local middle school championship against Providence, a program that feeds into Monacan.

What he experienced that night shocked Starr on several fronts.

"The place was packed, and I saw a girl who seemed like she was a sophomore in college," Starr said of Walker, who was 5-10 at the time. "Here's an indication of how good she was: There were college coaches there to watch an eighth-grader."

Then came the really big shock.

Since this was the last middle school game for that group of girls at Manchester, each player was introduced at halftime, and their parents were brought onto the court.

"When Megan got out there, she announced she was going to Monacan," Starr said. "I'm looking around and saying to myself, 'People are going to think I'm recruiting this girl.' "

Unbeknownst to Starr, Walker had already passed an interview and a test to get into Monacan's health and physical therapy program.

"It was, like, a big deal when I said that," Walker said of her announcement. "I guess I surprised people."

Walker, who has a 3.8 GPA, is serious about the physical therapy program. She would love to one day work with athletes but is torn between majoring in kinesiology and criminology.

"I watch 'Dog the Bounty Hunter' and all those police shows," said Walker, who has an uncle who works in law enforcement. "I'd like to work for the FBI. I don't think I'd ever get bored."

There are certainly lots of college basketball coaches around the country who believe they have the perfect kinesiology and/or criminology programs to suit Walker.

So far, Walker has toured six schools: Duke, Connecticut, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia Tech and Virginia.

Walker, who plans to have a list of favorites figured out by the fall, said she is seeking a university that fits her academically, athletically and socially.

One of her teammates, 5-5 sophomore guard Jasmine Norman, said college coaches seem to be everywhere whenever Walker is around.

"They come to our games, our open gyms and our practices," Norman said. "I've seen Connecticut's coach [Geno Auriemma] a couple of times. I've seen Notre Dame's coach, [Muffet McGraw].

"I know they're not there to see me -- they are there to see Megan. But because they are such big names, it does put pressure on us to perform well.

"Even so, Megan plays the same every game. She tunes everything out. It never gets to her head. She performs either better or at the same rate -- which is pretty good."

That's an understatement.

Walker averaged 19.9 points as a freshman on a 21-2 team that reached the state quarterfinals. This past season, she averaged 19.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks and won a state title.

Notre Dame's McGraw was in the stands when Walker, 16, made a dynamic play to help Monacan win its state semifinals on March 12.

With 6.4 seconds left and Monacan up 58-57 over William Fleming, Walker missed a free throw. A Fleming player grabbed the rebound and made an outlet pass.

Instead of sulking over her missed free throw, Walker tracked back and swatted away the attempt at a game-winning layup.

"I knew I had to get back," said Walker, who scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds that night. "I had to stop her from scoring."

Two days later, Walker posted 25 points and 12 rebounds in the state final, leading Monacan to a 65-57 championship win over Midlothian.

That was the first state title in Monacan history, and the core of the team will all be around for two more years.

In terms of success, Walker hopes to follow in the footsteps of her second cousin, Adrienne Motley, a 5-9 guard who made first-team All-ACC this past season as a sophomore at the University of Miami.

"We talk from time to time," Walker said of Motley, who is from Newport News, Virginia, about an hour from her home. "She said the coaches [at Miami] talk about me all the time."

Walker takes it all in stride. Besides her excellent grades, she also served as Monacan's homecoming princess for the sophomore class.

"I wasn't surprised she won," Norman said. "She's very popular."

Norman said Walker is also very "blunt," unafraid to dispense constructive criticism to teammates.

Walker has a fun-loving side, too. She and teammate Alex Parson, a 5-11 freshman forward, once bought a goldfish and named him Larry Jr., after their coach.

Of course, basketball is the main way Walker has fun, and much of what she does seems effortless.

Starr said it often doesn't seem like Walker is even running hard, except that the distance between her and the player trailing keeps getting larger and larger.

"She's strong in every aspect," Starr said. "She's improved in her physical play. We've worked on getting her dribble lower, and her shooting is incredible.

"Megan could be one of the top offensive players in college right now. It's hard to stop a 6-1 guard with her quickness and passing ability."

Scouts see the same things, which is why she is No.1 in the nation in her class, a fact that makes her father proud.

"It's an exciting time for the family to know you have a kid who is that talented," Keith Walker said. "But we try to keep it in perspective. We want her to get an education -- a scholarship to play basketball is just extra."

For her part, Walker found out about her top ranking last year.

"It was hard to believe at first," she said. "Out of everyone in the United States, I'm the best player? It made me feel good and made me want to keep working to be better than I am now."