Lonnie Walker’s list of senior year accomplishments reads like a career achievements bio: Won a state title this season averaging 18.4 points a game, finished as Reading’s (Reading, Penn.) all-time leading scorer (1,828 points) and named to the McDonald’s All American Game as well as the Jordan Brand Classic, which he’ll suit up for Friday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“It’s been fun,” said Walker, a Miami signee. “I’ve worked hard.”
Be that as it may, don’t expect Walker to stage any impromptu back-patting sessions; not when there’s another name that he credits for his success.
“It’s Rodney,” Walker said. “He’s definitely gotten me to this point.”
High praise indeed, especially when you consider the fact that Rodney is, well, imaginary.
“I never had a lot of talent around me when I was growing up so I created this ghost of a player,” said Walker, who is ranked No. 18 overall in the ESPN 100. “He was good; really good. All in my imagination, but it was real enough to keep me hungry.”
Walker created his uber-talented, make-believe pal shortly after his close friend Rodney Scleep was killed in a car crash back when Walker was in the second grade.
“He was a year older than me and he was a guy I really looked up to,” Walker said. “He was really good in football and we were close; I’d tell him everything. I just figured I’d name him Rodney after my friend. It just made sense to me at the time.”
Try as he might, coming up, Walker could never do anything better than Rodney; if Walker made 400 jump shots, Rodney drained 600. If Walker worked out for three hours, Rodney trumped him with four.
“He was always better than me,” Walker said. “It would drive me. It’d be like, ‘OK, Rodney had 500 shots today so I’m going for 700 shots.’ But, no matter what, I was never better than him. I’m still not better than him.”
That’s right, Canes coach Jim Larrañaga may not be aware but he’s got a package deal headed to Coral Gables next season.
“Of course I know that Rodney is in my imagination, but competing against him is so real to me,” Walker said. “It made me a better player, just strength-wise, shooting, competing… Whenever I work out by myself that’s what motivates me. He’s always there pushing me; that push is what’s made me the player I am today and it’ll make me the player I want to be in the future.”
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