Meet Luke Walton, the Sacramento Kings’ new head coach
Bouncing around the basketball regions in a forward lean:
Luke Walton, CIF style – He was Cool Hand Luke here once, the deep baritone voice barking out instructions as a player of uncommon calm.
Luke Walton won a championship in Sacramento 21 years ago, standing tall as a regal rebounder, outlet passer and forceful emotional leader. This all happened at Arco Arena in 1998, when Walton, the recently named Kings coach, basked in the glow of victory.
He was a 6-foot-8, 235-pound bruiser at 17 years old for University High School in San Diego, setting screens, passing from the high post and outfoxing foes with a thinking man’s approach, much like his famous father, Bill Walton, did during his Hall of Fame career.
Young Walton scored 26 points in a 51-48 win over Enterprise of Redding for the CIF State Division III title. I can still see him in my mind racing across the floor to bear hug teammates and coaches. Walton wondered even then if he might get into coaching, to teach the game, to develop players, to win.
Walton’s prep coach, Jim Tomey, told us that Walton “was always a few steps ahead” of the others in games. He was just better, smarter, tougher.
Walton was named after his father’s 1970s Portland Trail Blazers teammate Maurice Lucas, so toughness had to be part of the DNA. Walton’s younger brother, Chris, was also a starter on that 1998 University team.
“I was good in high school,” Walton told The Bee. “It went downhill from there, though.”
He’s a harsh self critic. Walton played at Arizona and logged 10 NBA seasons.
High on Hornets – Sacramento State landed one regional basketball star and has another headed to campus soon via transfer, debunking any notion that the Hornets ignore players in their back yard.
In recruiting, players often like to leave the comforts of home, though sometimes they come full circle. That’s Christian Terrell, a guard out of Sacramento High who played three seasons at Santa Barbara but will finish at Sac State, though he has to sit out a season, per NCAA transfer protocol.
The Hornets this week also signed 6-5 guard Rick Barros III of Capital Christian roots to a letter of intent. He played this winter at Nation Wide Academy in Oklahoma City, where he averaged 20.1 points a game.
Said Hornets coach Brian Katz, “He has been on our radar for a long time.”
Brown on the move – Jordan Brown, The Bee’s 2017 Player of the Year from Woodcreek, had a frustrating freshman season at Nevada this season and will be on the move.
The five-star recruit averaged 3.0 points and 2.1 rebounds in playing just over 10 minutes a game.
Brown will transfer, but where to? Seemingly everyone from Arizona to Cal, Oregon, Ohio State and Kentucky have reached out. So has Sac State, which has nothing to lose in courting the 6-10 Brown.
Brown was lured to Nevada by coach Eric Musselman, the first scholarship offer the forward received. Musselman is the new Arkansas coach.
From Placer to the NBA? – Isaiah Pineiro of Placer, Sierra College and the University of San Diego is on the NBA radar.
Placer coach Mark Lee this week fielded a letter from the Toronto Raptors inquiring about Pineiro, a skilled and tough 6-7 forward who averaged 18.8 points and 9.4 rebounds this season.
Bagley rise – This region has produced its share of stellar big men in hoops, from Bill Cartwright and Jim Eakins decades ago, to DJ Wilson and Marquese Chriss of this decade.
Each landed in the NBA, including Wilson, a first-round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Chriss, also a first-rounder now with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Brown could be that kind of guy, too.
The area’s next sure thing is Marcus Bagley of Sheldon. He is a five-star recruit, a 6-8 guard/wing whose work ethic matches his myriad skills. Bagley has been named to all sorts of All-State or All-NorCal teams (and was The Bee’s Co-Player of the Year).
The junior is already on the AAU travel circuit this spring and summer, meaning all manner of recruitment chaos. He has the temperament to handle it all well. Bagley is fast becoming an all-time area great.