Maybe it was the SI cover jinx, but Walker did not have a growth spurt and turned out to be no LeBron James. He played his freshman season at Arizona State, and was far from a one-and-done player. While the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Walker showed some flashes and a college-ready frame, he made one start and averaged 4 points in 23 games as a Sun Devil before transferring to New Mexico.
And just as Walker is set to sit out the season due to transfer rules, he'll be in Sports Illustrated again this week when the magazine publishes an excerpt of George Dohrmann's new book, "Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine."
This time, Walker graces the cover a book that will be released Oct. 5 after the Pulitzer Prize-winning Dohrmann spent eight years following his rise as a teenage star and relationship with his AAU coach.
At the book's heart are the personal stories of two compelling figures: Joe Keller, an ambitious AAU coach with a master plan to find and promote "the next LeBron" -- thereby paving his own path to power and riches; and Demetrius Walker, a fatherless latchkey kid who falls under Keller's sway and struggles to live up to the unrealistic expectations his supposed benefactor has set for him. As their fortunes take shape and the pressure mounts -- Demetrius finds himself profiled in Sports Illustrated at age fourteen, while Keller cultivates his business empire -- Dohrmann weaves in the stories of numerous other parents, coaches, and players. Some of them see their prospects evaporate as a result of poor decisions and worse luck. Others learn how to thrive in a corrupt system by playing the right angles.
Eight years and 432 pages worth of Walker's young adult life will soon be on display at your local Borders for $26 at a time when he's in a year of college basketball hibernation, gearing up for what he hopes will be big minutes with New Mexico for the 2011-12 season.
After all these years, Walker still has a shot at stardom in Albuquerque. For now, it's his glory years as one of the nation's middle school phenoms on the AAU circuit that will take center stage once again.