ELYRIA — After graduation, Elyria senior Isaiah Walton is going to do what countless young men have done for generations: Go West.
Walton, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, orally committed Saturday to continue his basketball career at the University of California, Davis, during his official visit to the campus, located 15 miles west of Sacramento.
“I liked everything about the campus,” Walton said. “The people were really nice, the gym and the athletic facilities are great and the campus is so nice it actually looks like a vacation resort.”
Even before he stepped foot on the campus, Walton said UC Davis was his first choice.
“I had the chance to meet a couple of their coaches since the recruiting process started,” he said. “And from the way they communicated with me I thought it would be a perfect fit.”
Aggies coach Jim Les played seven seasons in the NBA as a backup point guard. Assistant coach Chris Davis served in the same role more than two decades ago at Kent State when Walton’s father, Harold, played for the Golden Flashes.
“My father told me Coach Davis is a good guy and a real straight shooter. What you see is what you get with him and I liked that,” said Walton, who plans to major in either human studies or communications. “And coach Les played in the NBA at the same position that I play, so who better for me to learn from?”
Walton has been a fixture in the Elyria lineup the last two seasons and said without the guidance he has received from Pioneers coach Brett Larrick he would not be where he is today.
“Coach Larrick prepares us to deal with certain things we are going to have to work through be it in basketball or in life,” Walton said. “He has made me stronger mentally, pushed me to work out and helped to prepare me to have the chance to be in this position.”
Larrick, who was a standout guard at Division I Charleston Southern, said he has seen Walton grow both on and off the court the past three years.
“When I first saw him play I knew he had the skills, the tool set, to be a great player,” Larrick said. “What has impressed me the most is how he has matured as a young man. He has accepted responsibility, seeks out extra help when needed, was serious about getting the test scores he needed to play at the next level and has learned the time management skills needed to juggle academics and basketball.”
Walton averaged 17.8 points and 3.2 assists at shooting guard last season, helping the Pioneers go 18-6 and advance to the Division I district semifinals.
Larrick said Walton will move to point guard this season.
“Isaiah is an ideal combo guard,” Larrick said. “He has good size and physical ability and he knows when to pass and when to shoot.”
Walton said UC Davis, a member of the Big West Conference, runs a three-guard offense and that the Aggies coaching staff told him to be ready to play the wing and the point.
“I know I have to keep working hard but if I come in as a freshman ready to go, I know there is a chance that I can contribute right away,” he said.
Walton said he’s happy to have the recruiting process out of the way before the start of his final high school season.
“My family and I prayed on it that I would come to the right decision and I’m confident that I have,” he said. “Now I’m focused on our high school season, which will be starting soon. I want us to make a nice run this year and go as far as we can go as a team.”
According to Larrick, Walton also had offers from Longwood University (Va.) and Boston University. He was also recruited by a number of Mid-American Conference and Horizon League schools.
“The idea of choosing a school on the other side of the country didn’t really bother me because I figured wherever I go is where I am going to spend the majority of time for the next four years, so if I made the right choice I would be happy,” he said.
UC Davis moved up to Division I in 2005. The Aggies are still looking for their first winning season since making the jump from Division II, where they won a national championship in 1998.