Kirk Walters: "I'm Coming To A Decision"

One of the biggest surprises on the recruiting scene this summer was Kirk Walters, a 6-10 power forward from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Prior to the Big Time tournament in Las Vegas, the only colleges recruiting Walters were smaller programs like Central and Western Michigan with Marquette being the only "name" school to show him interest. That has changed now and Arizona has become the clear leader.

Arizona has made no secret of the fact that it is recruiting three big men other than Kirk Walters. In fact, Walters is the latecomer of all four of the targets since he didn't receive much attention from Lute Olson and his staff until late July. With most high school kids, showing up late can hurt a team's cause but Walters chooses to see it as an honor rather than a slight.

"You have to understand," Walters says. "That two years ago as a freshman I was only 6-5 and I was really bad! I didn't start, I hardly played and I was more of a track guy than a basketball player. During my sophomore year I really wanted to improve and that's when I started getting better. So for a team like Arizona to show interest in me after how I started two years ago, that's pretty awesome."

Just last week Walters and his family welcomed Olson and assistant coach Josh Pastner into their home for a candid conversation. During the course of the visit, Kirk said that what Olson had to say really helped him clear up some lingering questions he had.

"Lute Olson was impressive, very impressive," Walters said. "The whole in-home visit was impressive. Coach Olson is a really good guy and he's so well balanced. He doesn't just look at basketball with his players. He wants them to be taken care of and he wants them to become better people while they're there."

One of the questions many Arizona fans brought up was whether or not Walters had even been offered a scholarship. The Wildcats are still in the running for three top 10 big men in the nation: Ndudi Ebi (6-9 WF, Houston), Brian Butch (7-0 F/C, Appleton, WI) and David Padgett (6-11 C, Reno, NV). Walters put the speculation to rest.

"They told me that there is a scholarship for me," he said. "Josh was at the gym after school today and he told me that they really wanted me (at Arizona). He said that they have three scholarships to give and one was waiting for me."

Walters will make an official visit to Arizona on October 10th-12th and will be on hand for Midnight Madness Saturday morning. He said that he will use the trip as an opportunity to see how he might fit in with his potential teammates and how he would deal with the distance from home.

"Before Las Vegas this summer my main concern was distance," he said. "I wanted to be close to home but I'd be away from home ten months of the year no matter where I go anyway so distance isn't a factor anymore.

"I talked to my brother in law earlier tonight and he wants to get to see me play but he knows that the opportunity Arizona gives is outstanding. I'm really looking forward to my visit because I'll get to see how the players are. Coach Olson said his players really do the best job selling the program and that they are all good guys."

Walters said that the Arizona staff has spoken with him about what role he might play if he were to choose to wear a Wildcat uniform. In Las Vegas it became apparent that Walters has a huge upside as a power forward/center type. The coaching staff took notice this summer and knows what he brings to the table.

"The coaches said that I'd probably come in and play the four or the five," Walters said. "They told me that I run well and that's what they want to do with me. They run as a team anyway so they think I can fit in with that style."

The Michigan Mustangs' (AAU) center has tremendous leaping ability for someone his size (6'4" career-best high jump on his high school track team). But even more so than the lift he gets it's the quickness with which he gets off the floor that makes him so dangerous as a rebounder and shot blocker.

"About halfway through my freshman year something just clicked and I could jump," Walters said. "The main thing was that I didn't jump a lot before then so it might have been there the whole time."

Walters is one of the nation's most athletic and promising players in the senior class. He worries that he weighs only 210 pounds but says that he's getting stronger thanks to a new weightlifting regiment. Yet it's the upside that he brings to the table that has Arizona and Lute Olson so intrigued.

"I'm going to take my trip to Arizona and decide after that," Walters said. "I think I'm coming to a decision pretty soon. With the whole Arizona situation, I really never saw this coming. I think it would be awesome to play there."

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