If there is a guy who took on the definition of a leader, it would be the now former Michigan Wolverine Derrick Walton Jr. Walton had splashes of success in his college career, but his best career year was arguably as a senior at Michigan.
The Detroit native went from averaging 7.9 PPG in his freshman season to 15.5 PPG in his senior campaign. As the seasons progressed, so did his game. However, the biggest turning point in Walton’s career was after a blowout loss on the road to a struggling Illinois team. In the clip below from BTN’s The Journey, reporter Manfred Moyer stated that Michigan was more of a white collar team after the Illinois loss. Walton responded saying that where he’s from it wasn’t an option to be a white collar guy. Michigan would go 9-5 in their last 14 games after that loss. It was after that game that we would see Walton soar into an elite ball player who was capable of starting on an NBA team.
Michigan finished 26-12 overall and 7th in the B1G conference. With the regular season over, Michigan had to play near perfect ball if they wanted to have a respectable seed in the tournament. Challenge accepted. Behind Walton, Michigan won their first Big Ten Tournament title for the first time since 1998, which was vacated by the NCAA. That title should mean a lot to Walton, as they had to play though adversity, surviving a plane skid as they took off to Washington D.C. for the tournament.
Michigan would carry that high from the Big Ten tournament right into the NCAA tournament. There’s always a low seed that goes far in the playoffs. Last year, it was Syracuse; this year surprisingly, Michigan took that crown. They were on a hot streak and on a mission and Walton was a huge reason behind it. In their first game against Oklahoma State, Walton recorded a double double against Oklahoma State, finishing with 26 points and 11 assists. Take a look at his highlights in the clip below.
In the Sweet Sixteen, it became evidently clear that Walton carried this team on his back all the while making the players around him better. Walton was on fire against No. 3 seed Oregon. In the clip below, you see Michigan battling against the Ducks. In the end, Walton would miss the game winning three, ending his career in a Michigan uniform.
Although Michigan’s run in the tournament came to an end, Derrick Walton Jr. clearly solidified himself as one of the best players in Michigan history.
He has recently signed with Bartestein Priority Sports. The good news with this agency is that they represent former Wolverines Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskus, and Mitch McGary.
In an era of one and done’s and people leaving after their second year, it’s rather near taboo to see players stay until their senior year. Sometimes because of this one and era, most seniors won’t get drafted as much as their younger counterparts. But after his senior season, Walton showed up when it mattered most, and he is definitely NBA ready.