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Beyond The U: Lonnie Walker

Lonnie Walker has remained one of the most talented Hurricanes to step on the court in program history and has excelled at the NBA level. The former four-star recruit could potentially be the future cornerstone of the San Antonio Spurs.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Miami
Miami Hurricanes guard Lonnie Walker dribbles the ball in the second half against ACC opponent Duke on Jan. 15, 2018 at the Watsco Center (Coral Gables, Fla.).
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As a one-and-done talent, former Miami Hurricanes guard Lonnie Walker did some serious damage during his time in Coral Gables, Fla. a few seasons ago.

An ACC All-Freshman honoree in 2018, the Reading, Pa., native had displayed his arsenal of scoring, passing, and rebounding abilities under head coach Jim Larrañaga. Not to mention his potential to swim with the big fish at the NBA level.

Following a bitter, heartbreaking loss to the Loyola (Chicago) Ramblers in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, Walker made the personal decision to move on to the pros.

Just over three months later, the former McDonald’s All-American was sitting at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. hoping to hear his name called in that year’s NBA Draft. The room was packed with the nation’s top college prospects, originating from almost every blue-blood program imaginable including Duke, Kentucky, and Michigan State.

With all programs aside, the 6-foot-5 athletic rim-slasher did indeed put on an NBA Draft cap that night.

“With the 18th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs select Lonnie Walker IV from the University of Miami,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.

Shedding a tear of joy in his white suit and wire-thin glasses, Walker, along with his family, was simply overjoyed.

Standing right behind his table was Coach Larrañaga himself. The two embraced each other the second the newest Spur stood up to go shake Silver’s hand on stage.

ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas had known how much of an impact Walker could have on the Spurs organization.

“He’s an elite athlete with elite length. [He’s] a little bit of a streaky shooter but hit three or four game-winners this year for the Hurricanes, especially toward the end of the year,” Bilas said. “[He] shoots 35% from three [and] knocks down 75% of his free throws, so he can make shots.”

Even former NBA champion and current ESPN basketball analyst Chauncey Billups had compared the four-star recruit to the Miami Heat’s fabled Dwyane Wade.

“He reminds me of a young D-Wade. [An] excellent, solid body [and] has an unbelievable set of God-given tools,” Billups said. “He can score at all three levels on the basketball court, and he has potential to develop into a wing defender with that athleticism.”

And the flashes of Wade are exactly what Walker has brought to the NBA level for the Spurs over the past two seasons. The player who had led Reading High School (Reading, Pa.) to its first state championship in 2017 has impressed many of his teammates, fans, and even competitors with his exhilarating play style.

In only his second NBA season, Walker is just getting the ball rolling as one of the league’s most dazzling young talents. While some point to his highlight dunks, stellar performances in late-game situations speaks volumes to how high Walker’s ceiling could be.

Scoring 28 points against NBA superstar James Harden and the Houston Rockets in December, Walker led San Antonio to a two-point double overtime win. Some, including Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan, had considered it as the 21-year-old’s official arrival into the league, after the young buck had rallied his team back from a 22-point deficit.

“He [Walker] is the most athletic player on this team,” DeRozan said. “He can do some things a lot of us can’t. He was just going out there playing with his will and ability and he got it going.”

18 of Walker’s 28 points had been scored in the fourth period alone, and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich did not fail to take notice either.

“Lonnie and Jakob [Poeltl] were spectacular tonight for all the reasons that you saw,” Popovich said. “He [Walker] understands what it takes a whole lot more now as far as winning an NBA game. He’s getting smarter all the time on the court [in] realizing time and score and that sort of thing.”

But Walker is not only turning plenty of heads on the NBA hardwood. He has also brought the dedication to invest in his local community all the way from his Reading roots.

Besides reviving local students’ educational experiences, Walker has also stayed true to the prevention of family violence. Having recently donated $3,000 to the San Antonio Family Violence Prevention Services, the budding NBA star is willing to do whatever it takes to help lead the world in a better direction.

“It means a lot,” Walker said. “And if I have the ability to do it, why not?”

And the road does not end there. In light of continuous and yet exhausting nationwide movements against racial discrimination and police brutality, Walker has made his voice heard loud and clear.

Similar to other NBA players, the former Hurricane helped clean up the traces of vandalism in San Antonio streets after thousands had bombarded the city following the murder of George Floyd. He had also gone the extra mile to distribute bottled water to other volunteers who had dedicated themselves towards restoring the community.

When reflecting on Lonnie Walker’s basketball journey thus far, it remains clear that fruitful years lie ahead in San Antonio for one of the best to wear a Hurricanes uniform. With a handful of NBA veterans on the Spurs roster, Walker has plenty of learning resources, including five-time NBA champion Gregg Popovich.

The door remains wide open for Walker to establish himself as yet another Spurs great, all while continuously serving as a role model for future ‘Canes to potentially play in the NBA.