Be more aggressive!
Danny Walker used to hear those three words so often, he thought they'd become his name.
During each basketball practice at John Bartram High, coach James Brown yelled that phrase in Walker's direction, oh, about 47 times. There was no relief on game days. Not even before the contests were played.
"I'd hear it in the lunchroom. Hear it walking the hallways. Hear it even during class," he said, laughing. "There was no letup."
Then, Walker even detailed some other words of encouragement fired his way during his first two seasons of varsity basketball. For fun, he even imitated the voices of his buddies.
Walker, who goes 6-5, 190 pounds, is now a senior. Know what else he is?
The word that starts with an A.
"That was always what I kept hearing, and what I kept telling myself, that I had to be more aggressive," Walker said. "That's my goal at all times now - to play as hard as I can."
Yesterday, the Braves swooshed past visiting University City, 86-59, in a Public A game halted by referee Paul Tallant, who worked the game alone, with 1:37 remaining when UC coach Lou Williams received his second technical foul and refused to leave the gym.
Charles Sumter, the PL basketball chairman, said PIAA rules call for Williams to sit out the Jaguars' next game.
Bartram's far-and-away stars were whirlwind junior guards Tyrone Garland and Quasim Jones, who poured in 29 and 28 points, respectively, while combining for 11 assists (Jones had seven).
Walker's contributions were also significant. While shooting 6-for-8 from the floor (one trey), he scored 14 points. He also claimed 10 rebounds, registered five rejections and dished two assists.
When Walker drained his threeball, a Bartram fan hollered, "Look at that! Danny's shootin' threes!"
Later, after Walker made a strong drive along the baseline and finished with a layup, the same guy roared, "Next time that's gotta be a dunk!"
UC missed. Bartram rebounded. Walker ran the floor. A teammate lobbed the ball high above rim level. Walker caught it and slammed!
"Yeah? Some guy yelled those things?" Walker said. "I didn't even hear him."
About the long-distance sniping, he said, "I'm a decent shooter, really. But on this team, I usually have to stay close to the basket. That time two other big guys were on the floor, so I stepped away and took a shot."
In one respect, Walker is something of a hoops neophyte. Or you could say he experienced a very long vacation.
At age 4 or 5, Walker thinks, he was nudged into trying basketball by an older brother. He liked it, but his link to the sport moved out maybe 2 years later. His resumption did not occur until he reached the eighth grade.
"One day my cousin came over and said, 'Let's go play some ball,' " he said. "That was it. I've been playing again ever since."
Wait. Let's back up. So, how did he pass his time for all those years?
"Playing video games. And actin' a fool," he said, smiling. "Not bad stuff. Not getting in trouble. Just silly things."
Just listening to Walker speak, one can tell aggression is not in his blueprint.
"I had to work at this," he acknowledged. "I realize it's the only way to be successful. I approach it like I'm trying to grab every rebound. And if I can block the shot, I'm there. And when we get out on break, I run the floor hard."
Garland, a certifiable scoring machine, notched 12 points in the first 6:42. But he then picked up his third foul and sat until halftime. Jones, a recent arrival from Roman Catholic with skills similar to Garland's, notched 10 points in the second quarter.
Williams received his first tech just 2:22 into the game. Disagreements with Tallant weren't his only misery: The Jaguars shot 4-for-19 at the line in the first 16 minutes. Brian Coleman and Martez Lyles wound up halving 30 points for the game.
Walker, a solid student, lives near 68th and Woodland. He intends to pursue a career in mechanical engineering.
And he loves the fact that his auxiliary name is now You're Finally More Aggressive. *