By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
By the numbers so far, one player has been walkin' the Dogs through the season's first month.
Count 'em — 77, 50, 24. Those aren't the first three digits of a lottery pick, just the points, rebounds, and blocked shots by Tazewell High School's Noah Walker in last week's basketball games. Walker, a 6-5 junior for the Bulldogs, rode those sizzling statistics to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph/Pocahontas Coal Association Player of the Week award.
"It's a big honor to selected," noted the soft-spoken Walker, whose actions almost always speak louder than his words around the Dog House. "So far, we've had a pretty good season, playing against some good teams. We just want to keep trying to get better."
Although THS (4-5) has not quite hit full stride, Walker, along with teammates Jalen Jordan and Colin Hancock, among others, has had some dazzling plays. His coach — and father — Lee Walker, who played for a state title team at Princeton a generation ago, knows a lot about competition, and is not one to hand out compliments lightly. Nevertheless, he says that Noah is a key cog in the Bulldog arsenal.
"What we get from Noah night in and night out is a big effort," says the elder Walker. "You ask any coach and they will tell you the same thing -- if a player is giving you his or her all, then you can't ask for more than that."
Through the first eight games and especially last week, Noah has done that. He is averaging 18 points per game, grabbing 14 rebounds, and blocking an average of 5 shots each night.
"Defensively or offensively, Noah does it all. He plays hard all the time," says THS assistant William Lester, who was a standout player himself at Honaker a few years back and remains a keen observer of southwest Virginia sports.
While Walker has been "painting" the town inside, Tazewell has also relied heavily on the blistering outside shooting from Hancock and Jalen Jordan's full court consistency through the first month of the season. Both have challenged for best player on the team several times already and when all three have had had good games, Tazewell is usually victorious.
Still, Walker is the target when opposing coaches and players scout the Dogs.
"Well, several times we know that other teams read the paper and they make plans to defense Noah any time they play us," admits coach Walker. "He (Noah) takes a beating a lot of nights, sometimes double or triple teamed and it's tough on him -- and me -- to see him in that situation. Still, when you play varsity sports, that's what you have to be ready for," says the THS mentor.
Last week's action was certainly a lot for the opposition to be ready for.
Walker poured in 20 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and blocked 7 shots in an 86-85 overtime loss to the powerful Oak Hill Academy "red" team. It was a game that Tazewell led until a last-second three point shot by the Warriors' King Scott.
Walker was king a couple of night later as he picked up 13 points, had 10 rebounds, blocked five shots, and notched a pair of resounding dunks in less than two quarters of play in a 90-69 win over Grundy.
He followed that up with a better game in a classic matchup against Ft. Chiswell. Playing against two-sport Pioneer star Coleman Thomas, a 6-6/298 pound center who scored 23 points himself, Walker had a terrific performance. The high jumping junior score 24, grabbed 20 rebounds, blocked 8 shots, and added a pair of steals in a 72-70 Dog win.
At Bland in a losing effort against a talented Bear team playing to a capacity home crowd, Walker again put his all into the game. He finished by scoring 20 points and hauling down 16 rebounds, with four blocked shots.
"Noah does this in the midst of great opposing defense. He just has great composure," says Lester. "Somehow, he just takes things in stride better than most people would. He's quick and has a great first step inside. He just does whatever it takes, it seems."
Walker has a few simple goals and basic ideas about the sport he loves best.
"Our team can go a long way in the Southwest District, the region and make it to the state if we play together as a unit," he believes. "We have a lot of talent on this year's team. My teammates can go inside, shoot outside, and rebound. Our job is just to work together and keep trying to get better. I can't do anything without them (teammates). What we do, we do together. Dad (coach Walker) is always saying that. He tells us all the time how important it is to help each other and play as a unit."
For his part, Coach Lee Walker says, "Noah has a lot of ability and quite a bit of what he does, nobody can teach. I just want him to be the best he can in every way, and I want that for this team, too."
Assistant coach Lester concludes, "Well, Noah is a fine player but he is still improving on and off the court. He has room to grow."
Not a pleasant thought for the teams on the upcoming Tazewell schedule.
Bland County: Asher Dillow 22 points vs. Eastern Montgomery, 27 vs. Tazewell
Bluefield: Lykel Collier 30 pts, 18 assists, 8 steals, 5 rebounds in wins over PikeView and Graham; Anthony Eades 28 points in games vs. PikeView and Graham.
Graham: Colby Hill 30 points in wins over Richlands and Giles; Tony Hood 16 vs. Giles; Zach Proffitt 32 in wins over Richlands and Giles.
James Monroe: Micah Deskins 18 points vs. Giles, 19 vs. Narrows; Chord Settle 19 vs. Giles; Garrett Mann 16 vs. Giles.
Montcalm: Darius Brodesser 14 points vs. Sherman, 17 vs. River View.
Narrows: Rodney Perdue 18 points vs. James Monroe
Richlands: Ben Brown 14 points vs. Graham, 20 vs. Honaker.
Summers County: Ta’Ron Ayers 24 points vs. Liberty Raleigh incuding game winning shot; T.J. Smith 30 vs. Liberty Raleigh.
Tazewell: Jalen Jordan 28 points vs. Bland County; Colin Hancock 20 vs. Grundy, 18 vs. Ft. Chiswell.
Wyoming East: Josh Tunstalle 24 points vs. Independence.
Week 1 - Asher Dillow, Bland County
Week 2 - Noah Walker, Tazewell