Brandon Walters' transition from heralded offensive tackle on the gridiron to heralded post prospect on the hardwood could be nearing an end. Vol basketball coach Donnie Tyndall took a step in that direction this week by offering the 6-foot-9, 295-pounder a scholarship.
Soon to begin his sophomore season at Walters State Community College in nearby Morristown, Walters makes no secret of his affection for Tennessee.
"I love it over there," he said. "I've been wanting to go there since I was little."
That's an interesting statement because Walters hasn't been "little" in a long, long time. He was a 6-foot-8, 310-pound left tackle at Chattanooga's Howard High School – a finalist for Class AA Lineman of the Year in Tennessee – when Derek Dooley offered him a Vol football scholarship in 2012. Unable to achieve the necessary ACT score to qualify for a four-year college, Howard decided to switch his emphasis from football to basketball and take a junior-college detour.
"My knees started hurting more when I was out on the (football) field," he recalled, "so I just thought basketball would be much better."
The fact junior-college hoops coaches were calling him non-stop made the decision even easier.
"JUCO basketball came out recruiting me real hard because my ACT score wasn't good," he said, "so I had to take that (Walters State) offer."
Once he realized his future was basketball and not football, Walters decided to lose weight. After all, lugging 310 pounds up and down the court dozens of times is no fun. Though still oversized at 295 pounds, he moves surprisingly well. He averaged 14.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for Walters State as a freshman last season, shooting 58.7 percent from the field and blocking 17 shots.
His best game of 2013-14, he says, was a triple-double he posted against Jackson Community College – 19 points, 19 rebounds, 10 blocks.
He was nearly as productive on Night 1 of Knoxville's Rocky Top League. Representing Rice Buick, he went 8 of 11 from the field and 1 of 1 from the foul line in his RTL debut, finishing with 17 points and at least a dozen rebounds.
Walters missed Rice's second RTL outing but showed up for Game 3 Monday night. He scored just 4 points, making 1 of 2 field goals and 2 of 4 foul shots. Those modest numbers are skewed by two factors: One, summer basketball is a guard-driven game. Two, nobody is going to get a lot of touches playing on the same team with ex-Vol Bobby Maze and Vol signee Detrick Mostella.
Even when he isn't scoring, Walters exhibits skills that suggest he could be a high-major hoops prospect. Obviously, he takes up a lot of space under the basket. He blocked at least a half-dozen shots Monday night, including three by 6-foot-8 Vol junior Derek Reese. Walters passes the ball exceptionally well and has a decent handle. Finally, his footwork is surprisingly nimble for such a behemoth.
"I'm a unique post player," he told InsideTennessee following Monday night's RTL action. "My coaches say I've got good hands and good feet for a big man."
He believes his football background has helped a lot in developing his nimble footwork.
"Football taught me to move my feet," he said, "so I think that came into play."
After recently visiting Tennessee's campus, Walters says he waited to see if the Vols would offer a scholarship. He didn't have to wait long.
"I already took a visit," he said. "I was just waiting on an opportunity (to get an offer). I feel great about it."
Still, he says he did not commit. He isn't planning to make an announcement anytime soon.
"Not really," he said. "I want to see what's out there. I don't want to close out yet."