- Paul Sherman/Daily
MILWAUKEE — Fifteen months ago, the Detroit Pershing boys’ basketball team overcame a halftime deficit to top inner-city rival Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy, 70-60, in a mid-December matchup.
Just over a year later, the teams’ two top scorers from that night meet again — this time in the third round of the NCAA Tournament when the Michigan men’s basketball team faces off against Texas on Saturday.
In the high-school contest, current freshman guard Derrick Walton Jr. led Chandler Park Academy with 21 points but was outdone by Pershing’s Martez Walker who scored 23 points.
The two Detroit natives grew up competing against each other, and when it came time to pick colleges, Walton opted to stay close to home while Walker decided to become a Longhorn.
“To me. (coming to Texas) was an experience,” Walker said. “It’s hard out there in Detroit. To make it outta there you have to be really strong. What we used to say in high school and what my old coach used to tell us is, ‘only the strong survive.’ I wanted to explore a new life, and like I said, Austin was just a different environment for me.”
Walker and Walton did make it out, though admittedly, Walker said despite their proximity they grew up in two different worlds. Walton grew up in a suburb of Detroit, while Walker grew up in the city.
Despite the different backgrounds, both have played key roles for the Wolverines and Longhorns, respectively. Walton, charged with replacing former guard Trey Burke, has averaged eight points and nearly three assists per game this season while quarterbacking Michigan’s offense. More than 1,300 miles southwest, Walker has stepped up as a role player off the bench, averaging 11.3 points per game over Texas’ past four contests.
Now, a year removed from their dominant days in Detroit, the two find themselves playing key roles for teams that are one win away from the Sweet 16.
For Walker, though, the game against Michigan — a program that only recruited him late in his senior year — has little added significance.
“They’re family and I love where I’m from,” Walker said. “But it’s time to do business — it’s time to do work.”
McGary a Longhorn?: The physical comparisons between sophomore forwards Cameron Ridley of Texas and Mitch McGary of Michigan are easy to make.
Ridley is listed as 6-foot-9, 285 pounds, though he believes he’s closer to 270 now, and McGary is 6-foot-10, 255 pounds.
Though McGary won’t be on the court Saturday, it certainly is better for Michigan than if things had gone differently —both Ridley and McGary could be on the same Texas team.
“I really liked Texas in the recruiting process — they were one of my favorite schools — but they never really came at me,” McGary said. “Truthfully, if they would have probably came at me, I probably would have been more intrigued with Texas.”
With McGary still unable to play due his lingering back injury and ongoing rehab, Michigan will be forced to battle the Longhorns’ big man without him, eluding an audience from a matchup between two friends who have played against and with each other in AAU ball and summer camps.
Even without McGary playing, he will still be able to factor into the matchup — as a scout.
“He likes to use his shot fake a lot and get people off their man and dunk on them,” McGary said. “He’s a deep double barrier in the post.”