Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 27, 2014

Walker has successful return to Tazewell County

By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, Va. — He was a familiar face in an unfamiliar uniform.

The threads may have changed, but certainly not the production.

After spending his first three seasons of high school at Tazewell, Noah Walker returned to Graham Middle School on Wednesday night as a member of the Virginia High Bearcats for a Region 2A-West first round contest, with the winner advancing to the “Elite Eight” of 2A.

Walker moved to Bristol when his father, former Princeton Tigers and Bluefield College standout Lee Walker, accepted the girls basketball job for the Bearcats.

Any student would be wary of such a move, especially prior to his senior year of high school, but it appears to have worked out just fine for Walker.

“Really, I felt really good here,” Walker said. “I don’t feel like I really had to adjust as much as I thought I would have to.”

Virginia High was already loaded with athletes, but Walker only added to the mix, as the Bearcats rolled past Graham 78-62 on Wednesday, and will face Dan River tonight with hopes to advancing to the 2A final four.

Walker hadn’t play in Virginia High’s last game, a loss to Gate City in the Clinch Mountain Conference finals. He had been injured the previous game, but was confident in getting back on the floor.

“No, I wasn’t scared, I just wanted to get over it because I have been injured before,” Walker said. “I bruised a bone on my heel. The athletic trainer wouldn’t let me play (last) Saturday.”

After not practicing for two days, Walker started for the Bearcats against the G-Men, which brought a smile to Virginia High boys coach Barry Reed, who was able to return home himself, having graduated from Graham.

“I have been worried about it because he hasn’t practiced yet, he played tonight, but he didn’t practice Monday or Tuesday,” Reed said. “We did quadruple treatments on him daily.

“Noah will tell you he has probably got pain, but he had to play through pain, he really did, he did a good job.”

Walker filled the stat sheet, much like he did nightly at Tazewell, scoring 13 points, making 3 of 3 free throws and two late highlight reel, competition-worthy slam dunks, while also grabbing nine rebounds and blocking three shots,

All that and he missed most of the first half after picking up three fouls, and was saddled with a fourth early in the third.

“I was scared,” Walker said. “I thought I was going to foul out when I came back in.”

Reed, like many who have seen Walker play, marvels at the ability he has to play the game, much like his father, who is Noah’s very close role model.

“Here he has got 13 points and he didn’t even play two quarters tonight,” Reed said. “Just foul trouble and he has been in foul trouble all year, but what a great athlete, you all saw the finish that he had, just an outstanding athlete.

“He probably has a 40-inch vertical, if not more. We did some drills back in the fall and came up with that with our great minds, just an outstanding athlete.”

Despite moving from the area, Walker played AAU ball last summer with several members of the Graham club, including Colby Hill, who had 25 points for the G-Men in the loss to the Bearcats, who had five players in double figures, three with at least nine rebounds and point guard Derrick Lee dished out 12 assists.

“I played travel ball with them over the summer,” Walker said. “It was just hard work and good defense that got us over the top, we had good plays and we just pulled through.

“We were worried about them at first, but we just got started playing our ‘D’ and got through it.”

Walker currently has no plans for the future, but college ball appears to be his destination. Reed has already given his opinion on his immediate future, especially after learning that that he is continuing to grow.

“One thing we find out during his injury is his growth plates are still open so he is going to grow a little more,” Reed said.

“He is young, after he gets about a year or two older, I have advised him to go to junior college because I just don’t think he is where he could be right now.”

Carlock would agree, but has other reasons for that opinion.

“He grew up in this gym,” Carlock said. “His dad was my assistant coach my first year here and Noah grew up as a little guy in this gym so I have known what he has been since he was a little guy.

“I wouldn’t mind if he would be playing for the Cardinal and Gold and stayed here.”