Walton Jr.: Detroit ‘Looking Forward’ to U-M

Michigan sophomore point guard is rebounding at a high clip for the Wolverines so far this season, something his father taught him at a young age. Now set to face Detroit Thursday, Walton Jr. says the Titans will be ready to battle.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Through the first two games Michigan’s leaders in the category of rebounding read exactly how most would expect: Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr.

Okay, maybe not something that could’ve been predicted.

Standing 6-foot-6 and long, LeVert isn’t as surprising as the diminutive Walton Jr., just 6-foot-1. But talking with the Detroit native he’ll say that’s always been a big part of his game, as evidenced by some strong performances in that area as a freshman.

“When I was younger my dad was always telling me how rebounding yourself is always quicker to get to the fast break,” Walton Jr. said. “So I just always think about that. Here at this level it’s the same.

“Sometimes our bigs are caught up and overpowered by guys 20 or 30 pounds heavier so I’m trying to help in any way possible and rebounding while they’re trying to fight those guys off the glass.”

Walton Jr. actually led the team in rebounds in Monday’s win over Bucknell, pulling in eight and doing so against players far taller.

Playing for his father at Chandler Park Academy in Metro Detroit, Walton Jr. also played AAU basketball for the Michigan Mustangs.

Not far from the likes of several players currently on the University of Detroit Mercy’s (1-1) team, Walton Jr. has a great deal of familiarity with several Titans heading into Thursday’s match-up at Crisler Center.

“I don’t communicate with them much regularly but I played AAU with Anton (Wilson) and I played against Carlton (Brundidge) and Brandon (Kearney), all those guys growing up,” Walton Jr. said.

“I know for a fact they’re looking forward to playing us tomorrow.”

Brundidge, actually a former Michigan Wolverine and Brandon Kearney, formerly of Michigan State, provide particular incentive for a Titans team looking to bounce back from a Monday loss out at Oregon.

Not playing alongside of Walton Jr. at Michigan for one reason or another No. 10 says there’s an added intensity against teams in which a bit of history exists.

Either way, as a Michigan native and point guard regarded as a Detroit kid, Walton Jr. believes it’s significant for a program like Detroit to keep kids home.

“There’s a lot of different reasons why a kid goes to a certain school but just being able to stay close to home is a luxury,” Walton Jr. said. “Your parents can come watch you play and your friends can come watch you play. You’re just familiar with the city and how the things work.

“I think it’s important because when they recruit it may give them an upper hand getting more recruits just being able to talk first hand on how stuff goes there. It’s always important to have in-state kids.”

Michigan and Detroit tip things off at Crisler Center at 6 p.m. Thursday evening.

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