Walker, Anderson shine at UA

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Under Armour’s Association tipped off on Friday night before a throng of major head coaches, including Roy Williams, Bill Self, Tom Crean, Larry Brown, Mark Turgeon, Richard Pitino, Ben Howland and many others. And arguably the nation’s top rising senior, Josh Jackson, headlined the action, but he was just one of many who stood out on day one.

Under Armour’s 16-under division is particularly strong this year, and while the MidAmerica Sports Center courts primarily featured 17-under games, the smattering of 16s continually lured me back.

High-major after high-major took the court, and two rising junior wings — M.J. Walker (pictured left) and Josh Anderson (right) — stood out as among the evening’s most impressive prospects.

Walker a two-sport phenom

M.J. Walker entered the evening already carrying an immense reputation. Not only is he our No. 13 rising junior nationally, he’s also considered one of the South’s top football prospects in his class.

Walker put on an impressive scoring display on Friday night for the Atlanta Xpress 16s. He’s a solidly built, explosive athlete who threw down a dunk that certainly will surface on YouTube sooner than later. He also buried some long jump shots and made confident moves in transition. Long story short, he’s an easy call for blue-chip status in the Class of 2017.

Walker claims football offers from Georgia, Michigan, Miami, NC State, Louisville, Mississippi State and others. Given that gridiron offers tend to go out later because prospects self-identify later in their careers, that’s an extremely impressive portfolio.

He’s also in the process of growing his hoops interest, but his hardwood offers to lag his football invitations.

”I have gotten an offer (for basketball) from Maryland recently,” Walker said. “Also Mississippi State, West Virginia and Auburn, I think that’s it.”

Walker understands the dilemma he could face as his prep career progresses. In this age of specialization, attempting to play two sports in college proves unrealistic for most. Still, he won’t rule it out.

”I have thought about (playing both sports),” he said. “It’s going to be tough. I’m going to have to be focused, I can’t really be like everybody else.

”I’d have to single myself out, but I have thought about it.”

Anderson ready for his turn

Paying dues. Waiting turns. Those are phrases we’re accustomed to reading about players in college and the NBA, but high school? Certainly not for high-major prospects.

And yet, that’s exactly the situation Josh Anderson found himself this past season. Playing alongside LSU senior signee Brandon Sampson and Rhode Island-bound Christian Thompson, Anderson had to defer to a great extent to his older teammates. Nevertheless, he averaged double digit scoring and has earned the respect of those near and far for his versatile, unselfish game.

He didn’t struggle calling his own number on Friday night for Louisiana Elite. Anderson didn’t force a lot of shots, but he took advantages of the opportunities that did come his way. He’s a skinny, long-limbed, slinky athlete with excellent hand-eye coordination. His ballhandling is top-notch for a young 6-4 guard, and his body control is tremendous around the rim.

Anderson realizes he has areas to improve while also continuing to emphasize his strengths.

”I’m focusing on my ballhandling and my three-point shooting,” he said. “I’m a small forward to a one. More of a shooting guard type for college.”

Most everyone rolls their eyes when someone claims to be able to play three positions, but in Anderson’s case the argument at least doesn’t appear far-fetched. He’s easily tall and athletic enough for either guard spot, and his dribbling and passing are solid for the point.

He may not run the show like a traditional point guard and defensively projects as better for the wing, but down the road a SG/PG role could become plausible.

Some regional mid- and high-majors already has launched a pursuit.

”I have LSU, St. John’s, Richmond, Louisiana Tech, UAB,” he said. “Louisiana Tech and UAB have offered.”

Anderson projects as a definite factor when we next update our Class of 2017 rankings.

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