Sunday, May 15, 2011

Interview with Dantley Walker's father and assistant coach - Greg Walker

Dantley Walker - UNLV Point Guard of the Future 

Rebel fans, I recently had a chance to speak with and interview Greg Walker, Dantley Walker's father and assistant coach of his high school basketball team. Everything you wanted to know about UNLV's future point guard, you're about to find out. Additionally, the Walkers have been extremely accommodating in providing information and pictures - even the avid Dantley Walker fan will learn something or see a photograph they haven't yet seen. In true style, the following is a transcript of the interview, enjoy:

GW: Greg Walker

Signing day

RR: I’m talking to Greg Walker, Dantley Walker’s father. Obviously the most recent thing is that Dantley has recently signed his letter of intent to play for the UNLV Runnin' Rebels, to come play for UNLV when he comes back from his mission, is that correct?

GW: Yes, that’s correct. It was Thursday and with Coach Kruger we were actually going to go down there and sign it. But when Coach Rice came, he faxed or fed-ex’d it out here, and we had an assembly and he signed in front of the whole high school and we sent it back.

RR: Ok, that’s interesting. I had seen the picture of Dantley signing, but didn’t know it was taken in Lincoln County, it almost looked like it was taken at UNLV.

GW: They rounded up some UNLV Rebel banners and posted them on the wall; it was at our high school here in Panaca.

RR: That would explain the creases you could see in the banner, it had not been hanging long (laughs).

GW: (laughs) yeah, I think it was folded up.

RR: Were you actually there?

GW: Yes, well I teach here, but I was actually at some meetings. So I picked up the family and was there. It was probably only 10 minutes, but it was cool. We’ve been waiting to do that for a long time so it was great.

RR: Obviously this was a pretty big event for the high school, pretty small high school, what is the total enrollment out there in Lincoln County High School?

GW: There are about 2000 people in Lincoln County,  and about 200 students in the high school. Sometimes over 200, sometimes it dips under, but usually right around 200. About 50 kids per class year.

RR: What do you teach?

GW: I teach English, a high school English teacher. When I first came out here I was the head baseball coach, and assistant boys basketball coach. When I was at Chaparral high school for my first year-and-a-half in Las Vegas, I taught and coached there as well. I got an offer to go (to Panaca) and I took it.

RR: How is life in Panaca vs. Las Vegas?

GW:  (laughs) It’s a lot slower, a lot slower. You know I liked coaching in Vegas, but didn’t like teaching there too much. They were cramming about 45 kids in a class. We just thought (Panaca) would be a good place to raise a family. My wife was from Mesquite, she grew up there and it was a small town, and I moved from Oregon my senior year to Moapa valley – which is a small town. So we are both familiar with small town life. But it was still a little adjustment after being in Las Vegas for 6 years- when I was at UNLV and then teaching. There are good and bad things about both places.

RR: Nowhere is perfect.

GW: Right.

RR: How many kids do you have besides Dantley?

GW: I have two girls and another boy. I have a girl, Hailee, who is a freshman; a girl, Jade, that is a seventh grader; my boy, Kobe, is in 4th grade.

RR: Are they all athletes as well?

GW: The girls are more into dancing and cheerleading, my youngest is really into all sports too.

RR: I want to talk about Dantley, let’s get a good history there and then move onto some other areas. Obviously, everyone knows you named him after Adrian Dantley, the famous Notre Dame standout who was a heck-of-a NBA player, and now an assistant coach.

GW: Its funny, because every article that has been written about Dantley brings up the naming thing. Its not so much that he was named after him, but we liked the name. Adrian Dantley was my hero growing up. I patterned my game after him, kind of an undersized post. I went to his camp in Salt Lake City when he was playing for the Jazz, and just loved the way he played the game. So that’s where we got the name.

RR: Nothing in particular about Notre Dame or the Jazz that you would have been focused on?

GW: Not Notre Dame. I graduated from high school in 1987 and he was with the Jazz when I was in high school, so I definitely was a big Jazz fan during that time. We would get the games on the satellite in Oregon and we would watch just about all of his games. I was 6’0” and played post, he was 6’5” and played post. I just tried to emulate his game. No Notre Dame connection, that was before my time.

RR: I’ve read numerous articles about your son, a few of the articles have mentioned his shooting ability changing in the 7th grade, could you tell me about that?

GW: (laughs) Yeah, well we had a couple of guys that got him going in the Utah leagues, the Junior Jazz and the Border League it’s called out here. He would go play in Cedar City and St. George, Utah. We got him going pretty young, when he was in 3rd or 4th grade. When he first started he was probably the best ball handler and passer, but wasn’t necessarily the best shooter. He was really small. Shooting just came with practice. I think 6th – 7th grade is when he got really serious about working on his whole game and started spending a lot of time in the gym. We just would go there for hours, working on his shot, dribbling, and everything.

RR: Since we are talking about Dantley in the end of elementary and junior high, was he looking at other sports or particularly gifted in other sports?

GW: Yeah, he was a really gifted baseball player. In fact, I’ve had people tell me – 'you’ve picked the wrong sport, you should have pushed him more in baseball.' You don’t have to fight the size issue so much in baseball as you do in basketball. He was an excellent fielder, switch hitter, could pitch – just a really good glove, but I knew more about basketball than baseball and he just liked basketball a little better than baseball, so he kind of gave baseball up even though he didn’t want to. I said, if your goal is to play college basketball then you probably need to give up some  things like that, so he did. You really do have to give it up if you are playing AAU ball. The high school season ends in February and AAU kicks up in March. Its hard to play high school baseball if you’re doing that.

RR: There are so many time commitments for high schoolers in general, you pile on all these extra-circulars you have to a lot your time otherwise you’re spread too thin.

GW: Right

RR: I don’t think I’ve read that anywhere, so that’s good to know.

GW: Not too many people have asked about it outside of Lincoln County. He was always an all-star, one of the better players, but outside of the County nobody knows.

RR: So, he started really putting in the time, what people would classify as a ‘gym rat’ around the 7th grade, and it continued from there?

GW: Yea, right around then he gave up the other sports. That would have been the last year of  baseball majors, and it was year round basketball from there. Definitely a gym rat. Just about every day but Sunday, we would work on something or he would work on something.

RR: Do you have a hoop at the house, or how does he get his practice in?

GW: Well, we have it good out here because I have keys to the gym. But yeah, we definitely have a hoop here. We used to play on it a lot when he was younger, go out and go at it. Pretty soon it was just, lets get in the gym and do things full court. Its right next door, about 100 yards away from our house, so any time he wanted to get in he would take the keys and get in. The administrators would look the other way and not kick him out. Mostly the gym over the backyard as he got older.

Coach Wood, Dantley, and Greg Walker

RR: Having a knowledge as an assistant basketball coach did you have any ideas on the position Dantley would play or was best suited to?

GW: I’ve been around basketball my whole life, I told my wife if we have a boy, “I don’t care if he is 5”10” or 6’10” I am going to train him to be a point guard.” My problem was I had a lot of the same kind of success as Dantley in high school, but because I was a (post) inside player I couldn’t play D1 college basketball-it didn’t translate to that level. I didn’t want that to happen to Dantley. He was a little guy when we were at Chaparral, and we were working on his handles making sure he could be a point guard. He would give half time dribbling shows during our games at Chaparral when he was 3 and 4 years old.

RR: So, if he were 6’8” or 6’9” he would be Magic Johnson.

GW: (laughs) Yeah, I wish he would have gotten that height. He can play the 2 very well too, but there wouldn’t be too many D1 schools looking for a 5'11 2 guard.

RR: And by -2- you obviously mean shooting guard.

GW: Yeah, and so I think we made the right decision. I think if he wasn’t a point guard he probably wouldn’t be headed to the D1 level.

RR: With him being a gym rat, what would he be doing? Would it be just him shooting baskets from all around the floor, or would it be pickup games?

GW: Out here, it was tough to get pickup games. There was some guys who would get up and play three days a week, at the church, at 5:30 AM. He would set his alarm and get up on his own and do that, just to make sure he got his games in. Sometimes they would play Tuesdays and Thursday nights, and we always got him to those games. But, more than anything else, him and I were in the gym just working on everything. Shooting off the dribble, shooting off picks, shooting full court, left hand, right hand, driving, floaters, footwork, dribbling, we had a whole routine and it would usually take us about an hour and a half. We would always have him shoot at minimum 150 3's besides everything else we did. After that he would stay and do his thing, and I would go because I had enough. We would do that for years – we still do it sometimes. And that’s it, since we weren’t living in Vegas you couldn’t find a game to play in everyday. So he was like Larry Bird, just working on his skills on his own all the time.

RR: It’s tough in a city of that size to find a pickup game. When he did find a game were the opposition grown adults, decent competition.

GW: Yeah, I guess so-pretty decent. It was a lot of adults. Now, basketball is pretty big out here and a lot of the high school kids will get together with some of the better older guys and have some pretty good games. Once he got to high school we got him right into the Las Vegas Prospects after his freshman year. He was basically playing basketball from November till August. So, it’s only really during the fall when he had to try and find games here in Panaca since entering high school.

RR: I’m going to make an assumption here, so correct me if am wrong. There comes a point when a son, if he is good, is going to beat his old man in a game of 21. Assuming that happened, when did it happen?

GW: (Laughs). It happened! What’s funny is we used to play a lot of half-court, and I’m taller and bigger than him so I could always drive in and score on him. I said, you know what, we need to play full-court. So, we go and we play full-court 1-on-1, up and back. The rule was you could never walk the ball up-full speed the whole game. And we played to 11 by 1’s, best of seven. When he was younger I would always win the series. Each year he would keep winning more games. This last fall, I would be lucky to win a game. He would take me 4 games to 1 or 0. It started changing his junior year when he started beating me more than I could beat him. It was good because it kept him in shape and kept him playing full court. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen him play, but he could bring it up and just, kind of like Jimmer, pull up and shoot wherever he was. I think a lot of that was from us doing those full court 1-on-1 games so much-and all the shooting drills.

RR: No, unfortunately I haven’t seen your son play. I’m in that 95% that have only seen it on Youtube. I guess you trained him to beat you, so it was bound to happen.

GW: Yeah, we’ve had some pretty good battles. Talking trash, we’re both fiery and competitive. That’s one of the reasons he is successful – he is just so competitive. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, he just wants to beat you. I think that’s helped him in basketball and other things. If you’re playing checkers or whatever, he wants to beat you.

RR: Kind of like the Michael Jordan mentality, wants to win at whatever activity.

GW: He’ll keep on playing until he finally wins. He won’t leave till it happens.

RR: Lets go down the statistics, I want to make sure everything I’ve read is correct.


RR: Dantley’s height is 5’11”.

GW: Yes, we’re hoping during his mission he can gain another inch.

RR: Well, he’ll have to drink a lot of milk.

GW: Yeah, stretch him out.

RR: He is going to graduate high school this year, and has a pretty good GPA.

GW: Yes, I think its 3.7.

RR: He’s currently only playing basketball, and been doing that primarily since 7th grade.

GW: Yeah, as the sole sport. Organized basketball since 4th grade.

RR: His high school team is the Lincoln County Lynx.

GW: Yes.

RR: The data I have says the team went 24-7?

GW: That sounds right. Tied for first place in league with Agassi Prep.

RR: League play, 11-3. What is the league, just all similarly sized schools or geographically?

GW: Yea, it's based on school population and geographically the southern part of the state.

RR: He averaged 36.2 PPG this last season.

GW: Yes

RR: Basically, his production is what a lot of people talk about because, for example, he scored 73 points in a game this season and that was the highest point total by any high school player in the country this year.

GW: That’s right and we won that game too.

RR: So people are looking at his scoring, but he has very respectable other categories. Assists per game, 10.2; rebounds per game – just under 6 (5.4), steals per game 5.4. So besides being a scoring powerhouse, with the other stats he could essentially score -0- points a game and still be a valuable asset.

GW: (laughs) Yeah, by his sophomore year he really had a well rounded game. He’s always had to do a lot of scoring for us. If you’ve heard, Dave Rice has said some good things about Dantley, such as talking about his good passing ability. I honestly think that will be more of his role on the college level. I think he’ll be more of a quarterback running the team type player. He'll still bust the 3 it if they play off of him but he'll  have a lot of others that can score too, at UNLV.  He’ll get you the ball, whether on the fast break, half court offense, or if you need to get it to the post or a certain player – he can do it. He has really good court sense.  Because he scored so much, sometimes his passing got lost in the shuffle.

RR: There is a statistic I don’t have because it wasn’t published. But obviously in order to average 36.2 PPG you have to jack up a lot of shots.

GW: Yes, he definitely had the green light. That’s the thing, I can’t remember exactly how many he shot each game and stuff like that, we have it somewhere. But, if he had a half decent look, Coach Wood gave him the green light because a lot of times he could shoot threes better than some of the kids out here could shoot lay-ups. But because he had so many guys on him, because he was such a good scorer, every team was throwing 2-3 guys or a gimmick defense against him, and he was still able to score 36 in spite of that. So, yea he was playing against a lot of 2a teams, but he never was being guarded straight up by one man.  Sometimes it seemed half of the opposing team was guarding him.

RR: The game where he scored 73, do you remember what kind of defense they threw at him that game?

GW: I remember it was Agassi Prep and we beat them. And the thing about Agassi, it was great that he scored 73 against them because they are a legit team. They were the state champions. I think they beat the northern team by 30 points to win the championship this year. Really athletic, big kids. Anyways, what they did was as soon as he got to half court they would double him right there. Or they would just double him full court.  A lot of teams did that. As soon as he passed the half court line they sent two kids at  him and would try to push him to the sideline to try to get him to pass the ball. That game it didn’t seem to matter, he was just in the zone. Everything he threw up just went in that game. Some of the shots he made were from 6 to 8 feet behind the 3 point line.

RR: So, getting back to where I was headed originally. Has anyone compiled the number and figured out his shooting percentage?

GW: You know what, we did from watching tape of his games.  His senior year, he was over 50% from inside the 3 point line, and he was in the low 40’s from outside, I think 41% from 3.

RR: Wow, that’s incredible, especially for the amount taken.

GW: Yeah, they would play him so tight that he would get fouled too, so he got to the free throw line a lot.

RR: How is his free-throw percentage?

GW: He lead the nation in free throw percentage as well. He made 262 out of 290 free throws, and he shot exactly 90%

RR: Ok, so we have a Danny Ainge here.

GW: According to MaxPrep that was the highest percentage in the nation.

RR: Now, since you’re also a coach, you would agree with me that its unusual for a person running the point guard would not be a prolific scorer like that, it takes a lot of energy to run a team. A lot of energy is used taking the ball up the court yourself, as opposed to being the one who scores by coming off the block and shooting.

GW: Yeah, we never took him out unless it was a blowout. We wore him down. If we took him out it seemed like we would fall apart. And a lot of teams, they would guard him full court and try to wear him out. He always had the ball in his hands, always. And that’s why some people wonder, if he scored 36, how did he get 10 assists? That’s exactly how, he always had the ball in his hands. He had some games where he would just about collapse at the end of the game, but he got in such good shape that he could handle it. I’d say he's a lot like The Jimmer that way. If you saw him this year they hardly ever took him out, and he always had the ball in his hands, but he seemed to do alright. Energy wise, by his junior and senior years he could handle that, go go go. It definitely took a toll on him, wearing him down. Sometimes by the end of the game he would just about drop.

RR: Regarding wear-and-tear, has he suffered any major injuries up to this point?

GW: No, he’s been blessed or lucky not to get injured. Only in his sophomore year I think he missed 2 games due to a sprained ankle. It could have been 1 game if my memory is correct.

RR: On another subject that may fascinate some, what kind of shoes does Dantley wear?

GW: (Laughs) It’s cool because when he was a freshman, sophomore, and junior, he loved the old Jordan’s and we found them for him to wear. It's popular now to wear them but when he was doing it nobody else really was. We found him a pair of the Jordan VIs. The red and white Carmines when he was a sophomore. They matched our red and white jerseys. Those are my favorite old school Jordan's. They weren't cheap but he looked great in them. When he was a junior he wore the XIs and some of the IV and V's too. I found most of them on ebay. They weren't selling them in Foot Locker, like they do now.

RR: Aren’t those the ones that look like the wrestlers earpieces on the side, the bulge?

GW: Yeah, I think he wore those too.

GW: Yeah, those are what he wore the first three years, and nobody else was really doing that, so that was kinda unique to him. People would ask him, “where did you get those shoes?” People really liked them. He would go through a couple pair a year. Christmas time, we would get him another pair. For Christmas or Birthdays he only wanted basketball shoes. This year he got away from that, and went with the Hyperdunks. He really liked how light they were. Also this year he wore the Hyperfuse.

RR: What shoe size does he wear?

GW: He wears size 11.

RR: Obviously when he’s at UNLV they’ll be giving him his shoes, so you won’t have to break the bank anymore.

GW: That will be nice. Now maybe I can buy me a pair once in a while.

RR: Obviously he just signed the letter of intent, in the middle of his selection process there was a coaching change, that must have been a shock?

GW: You know, it was. He was pretty bummed out about it when we first heard it. He was gone to a track meet and I texted him the news and it pretty much bummed him out. Everything was back up in the air after that.

RR: Obviously, the common practice is when you give your oral commitment to a coach, and that coach leaves things are really up in the air, seen that way from both sides. Is that correct?

GW: Yeah, Coach Henson called right after it happened. I think he was at the Final Four. He called and apologized, and he said, “You know I know this screws you guys up.” I really liked Coach Henson, so I said, “hey – these things happen.” You can’t blame him for going, he got a good pay raise and everything. So, like everyone else we kind of waited to see what would happen.

RR: I don’t remember how long, but in about 10 days to two weeks a new coach was picked, and by the result I would assume you guys are really happy with Dave Rice.

GW: Ecstatic. Really no other coach, except maybe coach Tim Duryea of Utah State, knew his game better. We couldn’t have done any better than Rice. Great man. Great coach. Coach Kruger really didn’t jump in till mid-January. Coach Rice has been watching Dantley since his sophomore year. He called Dantley the summer after his freshman season,  and he has been following him really close since that call. Coach Rice was the first D-1 coach who ever came to our gym to watch a player and our school has been here for over 100 years!

RR: That’s pretty important.

GW: Yeah, so he knew everything about Dantley, so we figured that if Coach Rice got the job then nothing was going to change. If Theus or somebody else would have got it, I am not sure what we would have done. He had Utah State waiting in the wings. Coach Duryea called when the coaching change happened and asked, “what’s going on”, and we said “we don’t know” and he said, “well if Coach Rice doesn’t get him, we’ll get you over here”. Utah State was really loyal, they could have had Dantley over for an official visit while the coaching change was in limbo, but they wouldn't mess with the situation until Coach Rice made his decision. So we were a little worried, but not too worried because if it fell apart at UNLV he could have gone to Utah State.

RR: Yeah, Utah State has a really good program, but they play in a weak conference.

GW: Yeah, that’s true. The thing with Utah State is they have a great basketball program, they can compete with almost anybody, but the WAC isn't what it used to be. BYU will play in the WCC next season. That is fairly weak too. We are glad he'll be playing in the Mountain West.

RR: Right, level of competition isn’t there, so..

RR: A couple of more recent developments, Coach Rice has recently appointed three assistants, Justin Hutson, Heath Schroyer, and Stacey Augmon, how do you feel about it?

GW: I feel really good about it, I have been following it really close. I watched a Wyoming game last year that Coach Schroyer coached, the whole family came down for that senior night game. I know about Augmon, I was as UNLV when he was there – I think it’s a great coaching staff. We know Stacey Augmon because he played at UNLV and was a pro and all that. We really don’t know the other two except from what we’ve read, but from all that we have read it’s a really good staff.

RR: Probably a stacked staff, never heard of a staff like that.

GW: I agree.

RR: At what point had your fears and Dantley’s fears been put to rest throughout this coaching transition, when it came to signing with UNLV?

GW: As soon as they announced that Coach Rice got the job, I was about 99% sure it was all good for him to keep his commitment. He got the job Monday, and he called Dantley Wednesday night and said “Hey, you still got that scholarship if you still want to come. We’ll defer it for the two years”. So I think as soon as Coach Rice got the job it was pretty much a done deal.  We felt very good about it and we're glad he would still be a Rebel.

RR: I assume as they announced assistant after assistant, that feeling just got stronger?

GW: Yep, you know what, no matter who he would have hired as assistants; he still would want to play for Coach Rice.

GW: There are things that some people don’t know. One of the things that limited Dantley’s recruitment is we told everyone straight out that he was going on a two year mission. And so, we were looking more at the Utah schools because they work more with missionaries.

RR: Right, they understand that and work with it all the time.

GW: Yeah, and Rice, having been at BYU had dealt with that, and he actually knew more about it than I did. He called me and I started to say, “well, with his mission...” He said, “Hey,I’ve been working with missionaries for six years, I know more about missionaries (working with the NCAA) than the Mormons do” (laughs). When we had talked to Coach Kruger before, he said to us, “Well we only have one scholarship for next year, if you want it, its yours”. I said, “Well coach, with his mission you won't burn his scholarship until 2013”, He said “You sure?!” I said, “Yeah, you still have one to give.” Coach Rice has worked with that for awhile so that’s good. He’s familiar with the church and how missions work.

RR: Let’s talk about the mission. My understanding is it’s a rite of passage for boys in the Mormon faith, a bit more optional for girls, isn’t that correct?

GW: Well, its optional for both. Nobody is forced to go on a misson. It's up to the girl or boy if they want to go.

RR: Definitely more prevalent for boys.

GW: Yes, the last statistic I had heard, I think, is a little less than half of boys at age 19 go, and girls even less.

RR: So, for how long has Dantley wanted to go on a mission?

GW: I think he’s always planned on going, I went, all his uncles went. I think its something he’s always wanted to do. There were some times when he was a freshman, he said, where he was questioning it a little, “what if I got a scholarship, should I still go on a mission?”. But, overall, it's just something he’s always wanted to do. He’s going to give that two years of service to God and the church and I think most of us agree that he should. I even heard Coach Rice talk about it a little bit – he said it will really help him as a person. I think it may even help him physically, it will give him time to get bigger. I think when he finally gets back and can play again it will be better than him going and playing right now.

RR: When you went on your mission, where were you sent?

GW: I went to Canada, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

RR: Is it a French speaking province?

GW: There is some French speaking people, but we only taught the English speaking Canadians. My French is poor.

RR: All kidding aside, I’ve read some comments that a lot of people would like to see your son go to NYC so he can play some street ball. (laughs)

GW: (laughs) You know what, he said that too. People ask him where he wants to go, he’ll say Brooklyn. (laughs). When he gets the time to play he can play.  But he’s just joking. He'll be happy to go wherever he is assigned. He would like to go somewhere where there are gyms and weight rooms and things like that. There is over 350 different missions, so its hard to guess where he might end up. We should know in the next couple weeks.

RR: He’s not out there for the whole two years, there is training and additionally if you are going to go to a non-English speaking then there is a language school that takes more time.

GW: If its English speaking its 2-3 weeks; if a language has to be learned then they will be in training for a couple months.

RR: But that doesn’t add any time to the 2 year commitment?

GW: No.

GW: And they are working with him so he can go early. He doesn’t turn 19 until the end of October, that’s usually when they go. But, the church knows he has a scholarship waiting so they’ll get him out there 3 months early. The church doesn't want the kids to lose scholarships so they're good at working with them. We would like to get him out about August 1st.

RR: Which academic year will he be starting as a freshman?

GW: That will be 2013. And a red shirt season is always a possibility when he gets back. They are going to play that by ear. It all depends how well he adjusts after being out for two years.

RR: When someone is on a mission, how much time would they have to practice basketball or go to the gym to put on some bulk or anything like that?

GW: Well, what they do now, and it's different from when I went, it's mandatory that they get at least 30 minutes of exercise in a day except on Sundays. I told Dantley that if you got 30 minutes in the morning, then get up even earlier and get to a gym or weightroom. They have one day a week, called a preparation day (a day off) and on that day they can do all of that stuff too.

RR: The personal day, once a week?

GW: Yes

RR: Obviously you and Dantley, your family has numerous basketball players in your family, who have had accolades in Nevada – can you tell me a little about that?

GW: Yeah, in Oregon too. I actually did most of mine in Oregon and was all-state there. We moved to Moapa my senior year. Like Dantley, I got player of the year for 2A at Moapa. That was back when there only was 1A, 2A, and 3A. I got recruited by Coach Dave Rose (BYU coach) to play at Dixie when he was there, but passed it up and went to an Idaho JC. I have three younger brothers too. Same thing, always all-state and player of the years. On my wife’s side, she has brothers who were really good players too. I have an uncle who played at UNR way back when, in the 60’s I think. Dantley's great grandpa,on my side, played at Utah State. So basketball has been big on both sides of the family. If you look in the Nevada State NIAA records, you’ll see all of us in there. Rich Bowler (my wife's brother), Rex Jensen (my uncle), me, my brothers Kyle and Kevin. We're all over the place in that thing. But Dantley's name is in there now more than anybody's. He's first place in a lot of categories. That’s our favorite sport-basketball is in our DNA I guess.
Link (not yet updated for the past year, normally occurs late summer)

RR: I’m jumping around a bit, your son was named first team Parade all-American. Ranked one of the top-10 players in the country. Was there any prize money that came with that?

GW: (laughs). You know what, it was funny. He got all these awards the last four years (he was 1st team all league all 4 years, 1st team all-state all four years, mvp of the league twice, mvp of the state twice, RJ 1a-3a  player of the year twice, etc.), and he was asking me about being an all-American and I said, “you know Dant, I don’t think they’ll even consider you. You’re way out in Nevada and you play at a 2A school. It would  be great if you even got fourth team all-American, but I don’t think they’ll consider you” It was about a week later he came in, and said “hey I just got a phone call, I am first team all-American” and I said “what?!” So yeah, it was a big surprise. A nice surprise.

RR: So no scholarship or prize, did he get a plaque?

GW: As far as I know all they sent to our school were two plaques, certificates, and  a couple of the magazines where they list him and all the other all-americans, but that’s basically it from Parade.

RR: Since he signed with UNLV, has he had a chance to mingle with any of the current players?

GW: The only time he got to do that, was on UNLV senior night. Coach Kruger had him down, and he was in the locker room and hung out with them. He knows some of the players from AAU, but that was about it. Then Coach Kruger left, and then Rice got the job, and I asked Coach Rice if he could play and lift with the guys until he leaves, and he said “yeah”. So hopefully he’ll get to go down there on weekends and play and stuff, which I think will be good for him. He knows Anthony Marshall and Karam Mashour from the Prospects. So he definitely knows those two well.

RR: Obviously, being on the AAU circuit gave him a higher level of competition then just playing high school?

GW: Oh yeah, after his freshman year, right after they won the state championship, I said we need to get you in playing with and against better kids. If you can do these sort of things against them, then you probably have a future in this. If you can’t then you’ll probably just be a good player out here. So he got a tryout with them, and made it. He started for them his freshman year and played with the Prospects and Utah Select the next 3 summers. AAU is really important. If he didn’t do AAU ball he probably would not be at UNLV.

RR: So it had a profound impact on his playing ability?

GW: Oh, for sure.

RR: And the exposure as well.

GW: Yes and no. Sometimes I think it’s a little overblown. Some people say, ‘well it doesn’t even matter what a kid does in high school, everyone just scouts AAU’. I think that’s partly true. I think the things he did his senior year in high school got him more attention, overall, than the AAU. But his senior year wasn't a typical season either. His amazing senior year combined with the AAU ball got it done.

RR: Did you hear Coach Rice’s interview two days ago (from the week of May 3rd on the radio)?

GW: Yeah, I heard parts of it.

RR: Did you hear the caller who asked if your son could play defense?

GW: (laughs) yes I did.

RR: What do you have to say about his defensive skills, I know from a stats perspective the only one I see that is defense qualified is steals. There are offensive and defensive rebounds. Just under 6 steals a game is respectable, but how is his defensive game.

GW: You know what, in all honesty that is the one area he will have to improve. That man to man defense. I kind of compare him to a lot of the players, say a Steve Nash, a Larry Bird, a Bobby Hurley. Those type of players, they are not necessarily going to lock up a player when they’re playing man-to-man defense, but within the scheme of team defense he’ll be excellent-just like those players. As far as anticipation and everything that goes with that he’ll be fine. He gets a ton of steals. A lot of it is just size, he’s just not a real big kid. That was one of my concerns about him playing for Coach Kruger – he ran 100% man-to-man all the time. I think with Coach Rice coming in, he coached a lot of non-athletic type players up there at BYU and they played a lot of zone. There are definitely places he can play within the zone, and certain match-ups where he’ll do just fine. That’s just something he’ll have to work it. A lot of high school kids are in the same boat. Everyone LOVES to play offense, everyone LOVES shooting the ball, and you kind of HAVE to play defense. So, he knows he’s going to have to get more serious about the defensive end too, he definitely knows that.

RR: Well from what you told me about his competitive spirit, I think it would come hand in hand. He’ll learn how to shut down his opponents so he wont have to score so many points.

GW (laughs) Yeah, he’s not going to have to do everything at the college level. His college game will be a little different from his high school game. For us, he had to do everything, and with the Reb’s he is going to be a part of  the whole scheme. It won't all be on him all the time. At UNLV everybody's got game.

RR: Besides defense, is there any other areas Dantley is putting special attention on working.

GW: The main thing is his body, he knows he needs to get stronger because he is not tall. So, he’s living in the weight room. He’s going to get with the UNLV strength coach and take that program with him on his mission. Those are the main two things, he knows he has to put the same effort he puts into offense into defense, and when he does that he’ll be a good defender. He knows those two things are what he needs to work on. Getting stronger and loving defense as much as offense.

RR: Its something I talked about with Coach Anthony Brown, but this goes to the bigger equation as to why UNLV loses out on local recruits. And you can discount kids who go Findlay prep because they are not ‘locals’ they come here because of the good program, but one of the things he said kids need to grow up dreaming about playing at UNLV, that should be an aspiration. It seems to me, based upon things that have been said, maybe Dantley grew up wanting to be a Rebel – am I correct in that statement?

GW: Yes, you are correct. I would say, and this might sound weird to people outside of Nevada: The main three schools he wanted to go to were UNLV, BYU obviously because he is Mormon, and Utah State. A lot of people might laugh about that.  Why not Duke or North Carolina? Well, I grew up during the craze, when it was Tarkanian and winning championships. Dantley was born in Las Vegas, and we’ve always been right here in Nevada. Wink Adams and Dantley became great friends this past season. He came to the last 7 games or so we had this year and loved watching Dant play,  and Wink gave him his UNLV jacket after his last game. So, Dantley has always loved the Rebels. He went to Lon Kruger’s camps when he was in middle school, got to know Coach Henson. The thing is, UNLV never showed any interest until about January of his senior year, so they weren’t looking at him and we weren’t looking at them – we didn’t think it was going to happen. When it did happen, we were just like “wow’- we were kind of shocked. I’m not exaggerating, UNLV was a top 3 choice-if not #1.

RR: You’re an alumni, your wife is an alumni, we have a great basketball history.

GW: Yep, a bunch of our family have graduated from UNLV besides us. There’s a lot of us who have gone to UNLV, so we all are Rebels.

RR: Just a couple more questions, your son is a point-guard, is he a vocal – yell out the calls guy or more of a hand-signal guy?

GW: He can be vocal, if he was in there next year I don’t know if he would be vocal because he would be the youngest one on the team, but he’s used to running things and he doesn’t like to lose, so he can be pretty vocal if needed. I’d say more than that, he’s been kind of a lead-by-example type player. Nobody is going to out work him, everyone follows his lead. It will be kind of interesting to see, once he gets with his group in 2013. 

RR: You’ve heard the clich√©, coach’s son – high basketball IQ. Does that accurately reflect Dantley?

GW: Yep, that would definitely reflect Dantley. And at his size, he would have to have one. Its not like he’s getting by on athletic ability. He’s never the biggest or can jump the highest- he’s smaller and quick and he has that high basketball IQ.

RR: I’ve read he idolizes Steve Nash?

GW: Yeah, his favorites are Steve Nash and Stephen Curry and Jwill.  I’ve always talked to him about Bobby Hurley because they are the same size, play the same position, and Hurley did great things. I hate to bring up Duke guys-I hate Duke, but he and Dant are similar. I liked Mark Wade too. He's my favorite all-time Rebel. We've exchanged emails since Dantley signed with his team.  Wade was Dantley’s size, 5’11”, never shot the ball but was a great point guard. Still holds a bunch of assist records.  He loves Pete Maravich too. Dant has all the Maravich DVD drill videos. He likes some of the older guys. I named him wrong, should have named him Pete. (laughs)

RR: A lot of the Youtube clips are of Dantley jacking up threes, some lay-ups and some good passes. I don’t know if I don’t remember seeing it, but does your son have a cross-over?

GW: Oh yeah, oh yeah – he’s pretty famous for the cross-over. Whoever made the Youtubes, they kind of put the things in there they wanted to see. The one they used when they retired his jersey out here at the high school, someone was putting one together and Dantley said “hey, put more of my passing in there because I only ever see ones of me shooting threes” but yeah, he definitely has a cross-over.

RR: Had he looked at any Tim Hardaway tape?

GW: Yeah he knows Hardaway and his crossover. Dwill and Iverson too. He can break some ankles. In the Youtube tapes you always see him finishing, but a lot of the time how he got to that point was crossing-someone over.

RR: Well, that’s all I had laid out, is there anything else you think people would like to know about your son?

GW: We covered a lot. He knows he has a lot to prove, and I know some people out there think, “wow, they took a chance on this 5'11 white kid  from a small town” but its been that way his entire life, be it middle, high school, AAU ball, and everything else. He’ll show everybody what he can do in a couple years. Nobody is going to outwork him.  I know that. Whatever it takes to be successful, he wants to do that. The main thing he wants to do is help the Rebels win, to get back to where they were in the late 80’s and early 90’s. He wants to be a part of a winning program. He loves to fast break and push the ball, and that's what Coach Rice is planning to do.

RR: We all hope that happens obviously. I think that’s fantastic. Thank you for participating in the interview, best of luck to you and your son on his mission.

GW: Thank you

1 comment:

  1. elder walker is serving in my ward and is a amazing player just in fun games. one of the coolest guys i have ever met.