I found this write up this morning when I was researching Kyree Walker. I have no idea whether Coach Juwan is getting seriously involved with Kyree, and if so, as a reclassification candidate for 2019, but as DraeDay said, “the kid is a beast.” BP3 had something up about him, too.
One of the main reasons, though, that I wanted to put this up is what it says in the last paragraph or so about how negative posts on social media can affect these kids, and also the comment from his mom, “he’s still just a kid.” Something to be kept in mind, I think, as we analyze and critique players.
Mentally healthier after mom’s cancer remission, Kyree Walker ‘probably’ reclassifying to 2019
By: Logan Newman, USA TODAY High School Sports | February 22, 2019
Late in the game Thursday against Fast Break Prep (Tucson, Ariz.), Kyree Walker threw down an off-the-backboard self-alley-oop.
If he was making a mark for his going away bash, it was an exclamation point.
It was Hillcrest Prep’s (Phoenix) senior night, and though Walker is a junior, it might be the final high school game in Arizona for the five-star recruit.
He said he would “probably” reclassify to 2019.
“Most likely I’m posting my last game here at Hillcrest as a player,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen after AAU season’s over with, I haven’t decided yet, but probably this is my last game.”
The family hasn’t made any official decisions, but Walker has been taking extra classes and focusing on his training. He’s not just in a better physical state than he was a year ago, though.
Mentally, Walker has found a peace he did not have at the start of this season.
His mom, Barrissa Gardner, was diagnosed with cancer in May.
“Just the fact that I was trying to hoop and still be successful messed up the way I played,” Walker said. “In a huge way.”
Walker is 6-foot-6, 228 pounds and No. 16 on the 2020 Chosen 25. He was a midseason Player of the Year candidate. He’s thought to be a future NBA prospect.
It’s easy to forget he’s still a high school student.
In July, Gardner underwent her first surgery.
“It was a very difficult thing for a kid to go through,” she said. “I think that’s what people sometimes lose sight of with Kyree, that he’s still a kid. He’s achieved a lot and done a lot with amateur basketball, but he’s still a kid."
The diagnosis wasn’t the only family matter plaguing Walker’s mind. Gardner’s father had died just three months prior, the second grandparent Walker had lost in the last couple years.
“I didn’t play so good and I take that on me,” Walker said. “My grandmother and my grandfather had passed away in the last two years so I’ve gone through that. So having my mom have breast cancer, it messed up me in a huge way mentally. … It showed — it showed.”
Head coach Howard Thomas said he could see it in practice and had to adjust the way he was coaching the five-star athlete.
“(There’s) pressure on him to be Kyree every time out,” Thomas said. “When he’s not Kyree, people are looking like, ‘Oh what happened, he didn’t perform last night.’”
While the stigma surrounding mental health in the NBA has diminished thanks to players such as Kevin Love, Thomas thinks there can still be shame at the high school level.
“It’s still high school kids so there’s still that immaturity there,” Thomas said. “If there’s a kid suffering through that, undiagnosed especially, high school kids can be rude.”
Luckily for Walker and his family, Gardner caught her diagnosis quickly. In November, she was told she was cancer-free. That lifted the weight off Walker’s shoulders.
“She told me everything was going to be fine. She told me just go out there and hoop, do what you can do, I’m going to be fine here, waiting for you, supporting you,” Walker said. “Hearing that, I try my best to go out there every time and just hoop, just go out there and kill.”
But the mental fight that cost Walker on the court cast a shadow of doubt upon him from the outside.
Thomas said that can affect his star player as well.
“I wish people had more of an opportunity to be around him, cause he’s such a great kid. When he reads stuff about him online, it depresses him. I’m like, ‘Hey man, you can’t let all that stuff get to you, man, you just gotta dial in and be the best version of Kyree. … It’s not always what you’re doing wrong, it’s somebody’s opinion.’”
Good advice, I think from an older, wiser man, his coach, but not always easy for “a kid.” This last sentence is mine.