Walter Pitchford may not be one of the more well known names on the state of Michigan's high school basketball scene, but that won't be the case much longer if he continues to turn heads on the summer circuit with the Michigan Mustangs. The 6-8.5, 205-pounder returned to Michigan last year after spending his sophomore season at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Despite his decision to come home, he feels getting away was a great experience.
"It went really well," said Pitchford. "There was a lot of competition out there and we got to play basically every single day."
Basketball observers from this region are now finally getting a chance to see Pitchford in competitive action again this spring – (he sat out the high school season). Thus far he has shown that he can be a strong finisher in the paint while also flashing improved ability further away from the basket.
"It's going real good actually," said regarding his AAU circuit experience. "Probably my ball handling and just knowing the floor more – like my IQ raising up. Now I'm working on getting stronger mainly."
Slowly but surely the buzz about his play has begun to garner interest from a few high majors.
One school Pitchford hadn't heard as much from as he had hoped he would is the University of Michigan. His strong interest in the Wolverines actually prompted him to seek out the visit that eventually wound up taking place last Thursday.
"It was fantastic – like the NBA," said Pitchford laughingly. "After the campus tour and stuff, I got a chance to walk through the law school library and see the academic success (center) that they have for their athletes. My brother played basketball for four years at Dartmouth in college in New Hampshire and the U of M campus has the same sort of small feel of it. I can see why it is labeled the public Ivy. Basically, there is kind of a historical pipeline through Western Michigan into Ann Arbor. One of my classmate's dads played there and his grandfather played on a Rose Bowl team. One of my AAU teammates graduated from the law school at a time when there were not a lot of minorities. One of our graduating seniors was awarded a baseball scholarship… Derek Dennis from Forrest Hills is going to U of M."
As impressive as the tour was, Pitchford was more taken by the presentation put forth by the coaching staff.
"I spent time with Coach Dunn, Coach Jackson and Coach Beilein," he said. "Coach Beilein said I am a big that can run and get up and down the court… that I'm getting stronger and just to keep working on my ball handling, my three-point shooting, and stuff like that. I feel like Coach Beilein and Coach Dunn… their experience is at the highest levels. There seems to be a down to earth environment there. I feel it was a good time to visit because the visit was in the summer quarter and all the students were not there. It was kind of like a quiet visit really and I was surprised to find out that the school's enrollment is the second lowest among the Big Ten."
Pitchford's knowledge of the Maize & Blue is obviously quite extensive. Conversely, the Michigan coaching staff is clearly still looking to learn more about him and his game. He plans to make it to Michigan's elite camp in June and also indicated that Beilein & company plan to take a more in-depth look at him in July when coaches can get out on the AAU circuit and evaluate the action themselves.
At the moment Pitchford's sole focus is continuing to get better so he can prove to the schools at the top of his list that he is scholarship worthy.
"I really like Michigan, Virginia, and Georgetown." "That is probably what I am going to go with right now."
Pitchford also plans to take trips to Virginia and Providence in the coming months.