Michigan PG Derrick Walton shining under the radar

Posted on Posted in Michigan Basketball

Following Michigan’s biggest win of the season, the college basketball world is buzzing about Nik Stauskas’s step-back jumper that essentially turned the lights out at the Kohl Center. The sophomore’s sweet stroke was good for 23 points against the Badgers Saturday night, and he combined with Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert to score 57 of the team’s 77 points.

In the post, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford put up their best numbers of the season combining for 12 points on 6-6 shooting, 15 rebounds and five blocks.

Clearly the big-name players were impressive for the Wolverines in Madison, but despite all the eye-catching statistics, the most important number was 0.
Derrick Walton flew under the radar against Wisconsin, collecting just two points, two assists and two rebounds. But in a game that featured two of the top five teams in the country at protecting the ball, the freshman’s 0 turnovers in 31 minutes gave players like Stauskas and LeVert just enough shot attempts to escape a furious Badger comeback.

Michigan fans are less than a year removed from watching former point guard Trey Burke carry the team through the NCAA Tournament; so the Wooden Award Winner’s eye-popping numbers are still fresh in the minds of the Maize and Blue faithful. Last season, Burke had 15 games with 20+ points, four games with double-digit assists and countless plays that separated him from other players like the shot against Kansas and steal against Michigan State.

So this season, it makes sense that Michigan fans would be less than awed by Walton’s 8.1 points per game; but that doesn’t mean he isn’t having a great freshman campaign.

One of the most common problems that young players face in any sport is misinterpreting their role and trying to do too much. It would be natural for Walton to see Stauskas, Robinson and LeVert having stellar performances and want to join in on the action.

However, the young point guard demonstrated maturity beyond his years Saturday when he took just three shots and allowed the team’s big offensive weapons carry the load. Though he handled the ball for nearly every possession during his 31 minutes, he never turned the ball over and created open looks for the shooters.

The Walton-led offense looked smoother than it had all season in Madison. Against a team that is known for holding opponents under 50 points, Michigan had good shots on almost every possession and shot 54.7 percent from the field as a result.

What makes Walton’s patience even more impressive is that he has proven he has the ability to make a big play and lead the offense. Though his half court shot before halftime was the most memorable play against Nebraska on January 9th, the freshman’s game-winning layup made Michigan the first team to win in Pinnacle Bank Arena. Walton showed a Burke-esque desire to take the important shot and seized the moment in a big way.

There will never be another player quite like Trey Burke in Ann Arbor. What he did in his two seasons as a Wolverine took the program to a new national level. But the way Walton is leading the offense will help ease the pain of losing such a unique player after two seasons.

When March comes around, a college basketball team can only go as far as its point guard takes it. Michigan fans should be excited that this group is in the hands of a good one.

Derek Devine
Institutional voice of Alma College during the day, Michigan fanatic at night. Taking TBHR to the next level one post at a time.