A revamped role

St. Frances' LaKisha Walker has long taken delight in playing defense. Now, she takes a more active part in the offense, too.

Girls basketball

February 07, 2007|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Reporter

Even as a 10-year-old, St. Frances senior LaKisha Walker preferred playing defense to scoring baskets.

Her first Amateur Athletic Union coach, Wardell Selby, remembers that Walker was much different from her peers at that age.

"She was one that would rather play defense and sacrifice offense. Most of them just want to get the ball and shoot. Kisha didn't want to shoot. She didn't look to shoot," said Selby, the Dunbar girls coach.

Not even her mother, Harriett Wadley, a basketball player herself, could get Walker to take much interest in offense.

"She wants me to be the superstar and all that," Walker said, "but I've always been the role player."

The 5-foot-9 guard has been well known around the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference for her defense since she became a starter at St. Frances two years ago. Walker reveled in defending the opponent's top player, content to play a supporting role in the offense.

"I like doing the little things. I like frustrating my opponent. I really love to get my person out of her game. And I know I'm going against the best person," Walker said.

Over the summer, however, Walker found her offense.

"This year, as well as my defense, I'm more on taking it to the basket and scoring. Instead of just letting the game come to me, now I go out and get the game myself," said Walker, who scored 18 points in an early-season 64-48 win over No. 4 Arundel.

Her contribution of 11 points per game - up from seven last season - and her ability to have a big game at any time have added yet another dimension to an already loaded lineup for the No. 1 Panthers, the four-time defending A Conference champions. The Panthers are 20-3 and unbeaten against local competition heading into tonight's final conference game at No. 5 McDonogh at 6 p.m.

Walker had a breakout summer, playing Amateur Athletic Union basketball for the Baltimore Cougars and attending a handful of camps, including the Blue Chip camp at Loyola and the Blue Star camp at American University in Washington. At the Keystone Camp at Albright College in Reading, Pa., she was named the most outstanding player.

Blue Star Report lists her 56th in its Top 100 rankings for the Class of 2007.

"The thing I love most about her is she does not take any plays off," said St. Paul's coach Jim Stromberg, who helped coach Walker's team at the Junior Olympics last summer.

"There's always some really good kids who take a play off every quarter and coast. Kisha doesn't do that. Playing in Virginia Beach against really good teams, she's not the biggest kid in the world, but she was playing in the post and she stood out in the post. She's undersized, but she's tough."

Walker started her career in the post. She was taller than everyone else playing co-ed rec ball at 7. By the time Walker was 11, Selby urged her to work on her guard skills and moved her to the perimeter, because she wasn't likely to grow physically into a powerful post player.

Her mother, an assistant coach at Digital Harbor, said that took some getting used to.

"The adjustment, moving from the box, the five spot to the guard mentality and understanding where to be on the floor as a guard, took some time," Wadley said. "She's very team-oriented. I told her, `Work on your free throws and layups, and as a guard, you're going to shoot outside sometimes.' She put in the work."

She's working on the perimeter shooting, but the rest of her game is enviable.

"I like the way she plays defense," said Panthers teammate TaNika Jeffers, a close friend since they were 5. "She plays defense really aggressive. She do what she has to do for [her opponent] not to score. Offensively, I like the way she slashes to the basket. She's fast, and when she goes to the basket, can't nobody stop her."

Walker said hard work with the teams, at the camps and on the courts at Druid Hill Park, where she played against older guys this summer, contributed to her offensive breakout, but she said it was mostly a mental adjustment.

"When I started looking for colleges, I realized I needed to do what I had to do to get college looks. That's the truth," Walker said.

In addition to the growth of her game, Walker is enjoying her best academic year, working hard to earn a B average and scoring 1350 on her SAT.

Walker likely will make her college choice after the IAAM season. Aiming to become a social worker or a day care provider, she is considering schools at various levels, including Penn State, Bowie State, Villa Julie and Wesley College in Delaware.

Despite all of the hard work, Walker still has fun at the game - something she's known for around the gym.

She can be a little goofy and makes her teammates laugh. Sometimes, she can even get Panthers coach Jerome Shelton, who she said "always tries to play the serious role," to smile.

"Kisha's just Kisha every day," Jeffers said. "She's a happy-go-lucky person. I really never see Kisha mad. Even on the court, you catch her smiling."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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