Remembering a superstar before the spotlight - WNEM TV 5

Remembering a superstar before the spotlight

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HARPER WOODS, Mich. (WNEM) -

As the NCAA men's basketball tournament continues for the University of Michigan, a Michigan native played a major role in getting the Wolverines there.

Derrick Walton Jr., senior player for the Wolverines, has been unstoppable during the team's Cinderella run of the tournament. His success goes all the way back to his high school days.

"I recognized it early. Derrick was who he was going to become," said Shawn Gatling, school counselor at Chandler Park Academy in Harper Woods.

Harper Woods is near Detroit and where Walton attended high school.

Long before his time on Michigan's basketball team, he was a quiet honor roll student at the high school.

Walton's former educators remember him as a member of the National Honor Society, a humble leader both on and off the court.

"Being the point guard, the center here. No. 10 here. He always created a comradery in his team that was just outstanding. You know, they played team ball," Gatling said.

Evelyn Shropshire, now co-principal, first encountered Walton in her eighth grade English class.

"And everybody started having all these rumblings, there's this basketball player in your class. He's really good. And I said, 'Well, that's irrelevant. It's just, can he do my work,'" Shropshire said.

Not only could he do the work, the future Wolverine proved himself to be one of the most mature and astute pupils in her class, picking up on nuances well beyond his age.

"But I knew it would come for him. I'm just so glad that it's come for him at the point for now he will be finishing not only his time at Michigan, but as a graduate of Michigan. I know his family, his CPA family, myself, that degree and being able to do that is what was very important," Shropshire said.

They said it was in the gym where Walton would wake up hours before school started and practice his free throws.

"My brother being hard on him, that's why he's the hottest player right now in college basketball," said John Walton, Derrick's uncle.

Derrick's father, Derrick Walton Sr., was his coach at Chandler Park. John Walton said it was a tough love because they wanted more for Derrick than they had for themselves.

"This is what we did and maybe he can go further than what we did. And do this, something that he loves. And he has shot through the roof with it," John Walton said.

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