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Ask anyone around Ann Arbor and they’ll tell you that Derrick Walton is a different guy than the one that finished his freshman season a few months ago. That he’s bigger stronger and faster is immediately obvious. Closer inspection would reveal that he is also more focused. Considering that he already had a reputation for being extremely focused, his growth in that department may be his most impressive improvement of all.
When I knew when he really wanted it is was when he was staying at my house (the summer before his freshman year at Michigan) and he woke me up at like 3:30 in the morning,” said Walton’s longtime mentor and former NBA guard, Jermaine Jackson. “He woke me up at like 3:30 in the morning and he said let’s go to the gym. I couldn’t tell him no. If I would have told him no, he would have been like, ‘you told me I’ve got to want it.’ So I got it up and was like, ’hey, let’s go get it done.’ We actually went to the gym, we got there about four o’clock and we didn’t leave the gym until about 7:15. He said, ‘I’ve got to get it I’ve got to get it. My momma got to eat… my grandmother got to eat… I’ve got to get it. He was just shooting jump shot after jump shot after jump shot. His whole mindset was ‘I can’t miss open shots. I can’t miss open shots.’ I told him that the most important thing is don’t ever let anyone outwork you. Always go into the game in great shape. Not good shape, but go into the game in great shape. That’s where his mindset is right now.”
That much was clear when Walton opted to spend the entire offseason in Ann Arbor working with Michigan strength & conditioning coach John Sanderson. That drive was again evident when the Wolverines returned from their foreign exhibition tour.
When he came home from Italy, he went home and kissed his momma, kissed his grandma, hugged his daddy, then he called me and said, ‘we’ve got to get to the gym. We’ve got to. I’ve got to make these shots.’ The thing about it now is going into his second year Derrick knows where his shots are coming from. So we went into the gym and we made 300 shots from three or four spots where his shot comes from. He made 300-400 shots from every spot. Watch out for him. I’m being serious. I’m not going to say he is going to put that team on his back, but he’s going to (step his game up) and say let’s go. He knows right now he doesn’t have a choice. It is dog food or lay down. He knows the philosophy… it is dog food or lay down. That’s our philosophy. You know how a dog will do. When it is time to eat that dog is going to go and get that bone. That’s our philosophy, ‘got to go get that bone.’”
To view this feature in its entirety, our Big Ten opponent previews, in-depth features on freshman impact, a roundtable with the assistant basketball coaches, and much much more, check out the next issue of GoBlueWolverine
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