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Gophers Still Finalist for Hopkins Star

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April 7, 2020

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Hopkins coach Ken Novak told Sports Headliners Monday morning coveted Royals shooting guard Kerwin Walton might choose the University of Minnesota as his college destination later this month.

Novak said Walton is likely to announce a decision in late April after selecting from a final list of Arizona, Creighton, Minnesota, North Carolina and Vanderbilt. Walton’s Hopkins teammate of a year ago, Zeke Nnaji, had a breakout freshman season at Arizona and is declaring for the NBA Draft. Creighton was the first program to offer Walton a scholarship and with all its key players returning will be a preseason top five team next fall. North Carolina is one of college basketball’s “blue bloods” and coach Roy Williams has personally been recruiting Walton. Vandy coach Jerry Stackhouse, who was an accomplished NBA shooting guard, has also made a favorable impression on Walton.

An indication of Walton’s interest in the Gophers was his attendance at multiple Minnesota home games this past season. Hopkins has a rich basketball tradition and former Royals who played for the Gophers (including Kris Humphries and Blake Hoffarber) are encouraging Walton to play at the U, per Novak.

“He is really up in the air (regarding a decision),” the coach said. “I really don’t think he knows yet.”

Novak talks regularly to Walton and is helping him sort through things. “Everybody (all five schools) has got some positives,” Novak said.

Ultimately the coach believes the college choice will be a family decision involving Walton and his parents. Since Walton is close to his mom and dad, the hometown Gophers might have an edge over rival schools because the Minnesota-based family could watch all his home games at Williams Arena.

Ken Novak

The 6-5 Walton averaged 27 points per game for the Royals. He shot 50 percent on three-pointers. “Kerwin is as good a shooter as you can find in the country,” Novak said.

Novak describes Walton as “low-key” and likeable. “He is a very unselfish kid,” the coach said.

The superlatives don’t end there. Last winter Walton, who is a good defensive player, would not only practice with the Royals after school but also in the evenings head to a local fitness club to work on his basketball skills. “He is probably the hardest working kid I’ve ever had,” said Novak who has a long list of alums who went on to success in college and the NBA.

Worth Noting

Former Hopkins superstar Royce White, whose anxiety issues messed up his NBA dream, is pursuing a career in MMA while training in suburban Minneapolis. The 28-year-old White talks about his life in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. “He could play in the NBA now,” Novak said.

White attended Hopkins practices this past year and was helpful to the players. The coach said the public may not fully understand what a good person White is. “He is very close to my heart,” Novak said.

White turns 29 on Friday.

Drew Peterson, a potential basketball transfer to the Gophers, told the Houston Chronicle website last week he wasn’t going to leave Rice until two teammates made the decision to pursue other schools. The 6-8 Libertyville, Illinois native can play guard and forward. As a sophomore last season, he led the Owls in both rebounding average per game at 6.5 and in assists at 3.5. He was third in scoring at 11.1.

The NCAA has yet to rule on whether players can transfer one time during their college careers and become eligible to play the next season (rather than sit out a year). That will impact former Drake center Liam Robbins, a shot blocking specialist who is transferring to the Gophers. The guess here is the NCAA will approve the immediate eligibility rule. Keeping players on the field or court is in the organization’s best interest for marketing the college product. It’s also a difficult argument to say free-wheeling coaches can leave one school for another but players cannot.

The coronavirus epidemic limiting social contact has put a halt to NBA tryout sessions and that can’t help the draft prospects for Gophers sophomore guard Marcus Carr. Even if the evaluation sessions were in place, Carr could be a long shot to be drafted. He seems likely to withdraw his name from draft consideration.

Former Vikings Adrian Peterson (RB) and Cordarrelle Patterson (kick returner) are members of the 2010s All-Decade team announced yesterday by the NFL and Pro Football Hall of Fame. Peterson is one of eight unanimous selections among the 53 players honored. Minneapolis native Larry Fitzgerald (WR) is also on the team.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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