2016-11-16 / Featured / Front Page

Monacan hoops star, Megan Walker, picks UConn

By Jim McConnell

Megan Walker, the top girls basketball recruit in the country, announced her decision to play for the University of Connecticut last week. 
James Haskins/Chesterfield Observer Megan Walker, the top girls basketball recruit in the country, announced her decision to play for the University of Connecticut last week. James Haskins/Chesterfield Observer Long before she became the most highly sought-after high school athlete in Chesterfield history, it was obvious that Megan Walker had been born to play basketball.

David Anderson, owner of the Foundation Academy Basketball Development Group, has been Walker’s trainer since she was in fourth grade. Even then, Anderson recalled, her physical gifts and understanding of the game were far ahead of her peers.

Walker was blessed with long arms, a lithe build and huge hands that enabled her to palm a basketball for the first time as a seventh-grader.

That was the year, Anderson said, “Megan became ‘Megatron,’ and the whole world turned upside down.”

Even as she grew to 6 feet 1 inches, Walker retained the quickness, ball-handling skills and shooting ability that made her a lethal guard. She complemented her talent with tenacity and a relentless work ethic.

When Walker played her first varsity game for Monacan High as a freshman in 2013, she already had been the No. 1 player in her national recruiting class for a full year.

Yet, somehow, she continued to get better and better.

Along the way, Walker was wooed by the top women’s basketball programs in the country, but one in particular stood out. She made it official last week, signing a letter of intent to play for 11-time NCAA champion University of Connecticut and legendary coach Geno Auriemma.

“I want to be the best, and I know [Auriemma] can help me get there,” Walker said following her signing ceremony, which was held in Monacan’s new gymnasium and televised nationally on ESPNU.

Walker, who also considered Texas and Notre Dame among her finalists, announced her choice in somewhat unusual fashion: by popping a giant balloon with both schools’ primary colors.

Walker becomes the crown jewel of another top-ranked recruiting class at UConn. She acknowledged she was tempted by the opportunity to help build a powerhouse at Texas instead of joining a program that has won each of the last four NCAA championships.

“[Auriemma] recruited Megan more heavily than any other coach,” said Walker’s father, Keith. “He was really passionate about her – not what she could do for UConn, but what he could do to help improve her game and make her dreams come true.”

Auriemma, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, has been a fixture at Walker’s games the past two seasons. Each of his nine visits to Monacan created a stir on social media.

Occasionally, Keith Walker said, the hype and hoopla over his daughter’s college choice became “surreal.”

“To be part of this journey and know she has reached this level is amazing,” he added. “You have to step back and pinch yourself sometimes.”

According to Monacan girls basketball coach Larry Starr, Walker never let all the attention go to her head.

“She made it easy for us because she handled it with such maturity,” Starr said. “She works hard and is a team player. If you didn’t know she was the No. 1 recruit in the nation, you’d never know it by watching us practice.”

Monacan opened preseason workouts last Monday in pursuit of a third consecutive Group 4A state championship. Walker, the reigning Gatorade state player of the year, makes the Chiefs a prohibitive favorite to complete the three-peat.

Walker’s longtime trainer is convinced her best basketball is still ahead.

“When it’s all said and done, she can be one of the best ever to play the game,” Anderson said. “That’s her ceiling.”

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