By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. —
Noah Walker is a stat-sheet stuffer for the Tazewell boys basketball team, but he’s no Lee Walker.
Just ask him.
“I am no where near my dad as a player, my dad was excellent,” Walker said. “I want to get to his point, he is my role model.”
Walker has heard all about the exploits of his father. Lee Walker was a member of Princeton’s state championship team back in the seventies and became a standout performer at Bluefield College.
The son would like to see it for himself.
“I am going to watch his films,” Walker said. “I am trying to get my hands on it and just learn from him, he has been teaching me some stuff. I have got to do it. There has got to be some (film) somewhere.”
Lee Walker doesn’t have any film, just memories of a playing career that has shifted to the sidelines as the coach of his son and the rest of the Tazewell Bulldogs.
“I am an old man now,” said Lee Walker, with a smile. “He is a lot of fun to work with, I like working with him, he is coachable and listens. That is the big thing.”
From looking at the results, Noah Walker is listening and learning, and putting those lessons into action.
“I am excited, I think we should do really well,” Walker said. “We can do way better than that this year.”
Few athletes in the area can dominate a game like Walker, who is averaging 17.1 points per game for the 5-5 Bulldogs, along with compiling nearly 15 rebounds per game, and the 6-foot-4 junior has blocked as many as eight shots in a game this season, and reached seven rejections three times.
It won’t be easy, but he is on his way to reaching his goal of improving on last season, which included contributions of 15 points and 17 rebounds per game.
“I want to do better than I did last year, get more points, get more rebounds and just do better,” Walker said.
He’s trying. Check out these numbers in some of his 10 games this season.
•23 points, 13 rebounds vs. Lebanon.
•19 points, 13 rebounds, 7 blocks vs. Graham.
•13 points, 13 rebounds, 7 blocks vs. Lebanon.
•20 points, 14 rebounds, 7 blocks vs. Oak Hill Academy (Red).
•24 points, 20 rebounds, 8 blocks vs. Fort Chiswell
•20 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks vs. Grundy.
•19 points, 18 rebounds, 2 blocks vs. Bland County.
Not bad. Numbers like that will bring a smile to a coach or dad. Or both.
“He is really growing as a player,” Lee Walker said. “He has gotten a lot stronger and he works really hard, he is fun to watch.”
Noah is as much as part of the Four Seasons Country YMCA as the basketball court itself. He spent the offseason there every day working on his game, while also attending a skills camp at West Virginia University, with hopes of following in his father’s footsteps at the next level.
“I would weight-lift, go to the gym, shoot 100 shots from five spots outside the free throw line, five spots outside every day,” Walker said. “I have gotten better with my ballhandling. I have been able to take it to the basket easier.”
While stats are nice, Walker is more interested in that work translating into wins. The Bulldogs are 5-5 against a difficult schedule, and it doesn’t get any easier on Friday when perennial power Martinsville and its Bulldogs visit Tazewell’s canine club.
Those are games that can only help the Bulldogs as the season reaches playoff time.
“I think it will be a really good experience for the kids and help them along the way,” Lee Walker said. “Hopefully we will get better each game ... .
“I think if we can compete every night it could be really good for us.”
Tazewell finished last season with a 12-13 record, losing in the Region IV semifinals to Abingdon and missing out on a Division 3 state tournament berth by two points when a 3 and a tip-in rimmed out at the buzzer.
“It took a long time to get over, I hate it for the kids to lose that way, the ball just went in and rolled out,” Lee Walker said. “Noah tried to tip it back, it was a hard way to lose a game, but I guess we are over with and we are starting a new day.”
Noah Walker thinks these Bulldogs can get back there and beyond.
“I think we can do something in the region this year,” he said. “We made it last year and played against Abingdon and we lost that by two.
“This year we just have to play through it and just beat them.”
While Walker fills the stat sheet each night, he’s not alone. Senior guard Jalen Jordan averages 17.2 points a game. He has scored 28, 27, 24, 23, 22 and 20 points in games this season, and has also had as many as 11 rebounds, and another game with eight boards and three steals.
“Jalen brings speed,” Noah Walker said. “He can get to the basket, he can dish the ball out. He can do whatever he needs to do to get us the ball.”
That 1-2 combination is something that Lee Walker feels can carry a team far, much like what is possessed by fellow Southwest District foes Carroll County and Abingdon.
“(Carroll County is) a good team, they work hard and being right there in North Carolina they play a lot of basketball, they will be competitive,” Lee Walker said. “Abingdon is good, they have got a big boy and a good guard.
“In high school if you have a big boy and a good guard that will take you a long way.”
Tazewell opens its SWD slate on Jan. 8 against Carroll County, which is 9-0 on the young season. The Falcons (7-2), Marion (6-1) and Richlands (1-4) also await on the league schedule.
“Hopefully we will be competing in the district and region,” Lee Walker said. “If we stay healthy and keep working and keep improving, that is what you look for is your team to keep growing and keep improving and I think we can.”
He will be looking for production on both ends of the floor to make that happen, and not just from Noah and Jordan. He thinks the talent is there to make it happen.
“I think we have got a lot of kids that can contribute…” he said. “It is good to have it where on any given night anybody can show up and I am hoping that others will shine too and that way it will be harder for people to stop us.”
There is little doubt Noah Walker will be doing his part. He is always preparing for that next practice or game, a chance to shine on the court, much like his dad did all those years ago.
“I will just keep doing what I have been doing,” he said. “I go through practice and get my shots in, come back, relax, ice my legs and be ready to play.
“I just try to play the best that I can, do what I need to do for my team. It is not my team, we are a team as a unit.”
— Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org