Men's basketball: He used to be a wrestler?

If Brian LaPlante ever wanted to spread some mats out and let his guys wrestle, you'd have to like Marquise Walker's chances.

03-07 rctc marquise walker.jpg
Rochester Community and Technical College forward Marquise Walker has quickly turned into a star for the national tournament-bound Yellowjackets.

If Brian LaPlante ever wanted to spread some mats out and let his guys wrestle, you'd have to like Marquise Walker's chances.

Doesn't matter that Walker is presently a Rochester Community and Technical College freshman basketball standout and a guy who Yellowjackets coach LaPlante calls, "The best 15-foot jump shooter I've ever had."

Walker could certainly still muster a pretty fair single-leg takedown, if coaxed into it. Because that was the 6-foot-5, 190-pounder's main sport through his freshman year of high school, first wrestling for Valley Middle School, then the Apple Valley High School junior varsity, and then finally the Eastview High School JV.

But a meniscus tear to his knee changed all of that. He suffered it while wrestling his freshman year. It persuaded Walker to hang up the singlet and give something else a try.

His basketball-playing cousin, Ira Johson, had a big influence, too. And so did NBA star Kevin Durant.


"I remember I'd go to the gym with my cousin (late in his freshman year of high school) to play basketball," Walker said. "It was then that I also started watching KD (Oklahoma City superstar forward Kevin Durant), and I was 6-1 then and long like him."

Walker saw himself in Durant, a stringy but elegant player. He wanted to be like that. Not that he was anything close right away, other than being long limbed and a good leaper.

"I was pretty bad my sophomore year, but I made the (Eastview B-squad) team," Walker said. "That told me that anything is possible."

Evolving into a star

There were more progressions coming for Walker. Like going from 6-1 when he was a high school freshman to his current 6-5. Mixed in was a junior season played on the Eastview junior varsity, followed by a move to Lakeville North his senior year.

Walker said he felt like his game was being held back by the Eastview basketball program. And after regularly meeting many of the Lakeville North players at Lifetime Fitness in Apple Valley, and continually being told by them how good he was, Walker wanted to join them.

So he did. He transferred to Lakeville North his senior year and proceeded to start for a Panthers team that made it to the state tournament.

Walker was mostly an athlete for them, asked mostly to rebound, play defense, run the court, and connect in close to the basket, often with dunks.


At RCTC he's become much more than a runner and a jumper. He's one of the most prized players on a Yellowjackets team that beginning Thursday will play in the Division III junior college national tournament, in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y.

Walker has surprised even himself with his progress. But not LaPlante.

"He seemed to see more in me than I saw in myself when I first got here," Walker said.

Walker is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds, while shooting 55 percent from the field on a team loaded with balance.

Walker, who along with teammate Demetrius Cady was named to the all-Minnesota College Athletic Conference team, is coming off a national-qualifying game in which he scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. He buried 9 of 15 shots en route.

The ex-wrestler, according to LaPlante, has a chance to not just be a star at the junior college level, but beyond. He sees him eventually playing at a four-year Division II school at minimum, and possible a Division I mid-major.

The running and the jumping and that mid-range shot are all already in place for Walker. But LaPlante is still looking for more.

"Marquise is a young kid and he's come a long ways; he's finding the value of pushing himself," said LaPlante, who wants Walker to work on his ball handling and 3-point shooting. "But his best years are coming up. I picture him at 21 (years old), and how good he could become. In so many aspects of the game, he's still just a pup."

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