When Dinjiyl Walker transferred to the Academy of the New Church in 2010, he fit in with the other Division I prospects who filled that team's roster.
But his previous two years in his hometown of Vaughan, Ontario, had set him back academically, and as a result he watched his teammates and opponents take Division I opportunities he was seldom offered.
"I had just a few schools that were interested and wanted me, but they didn't know if I was going to be eligible," said Walker, a reserve for Oklahoma as the Sooners prepared to face Michigan State on Friday night in the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16. "They were scared to with my grades. I didn't get eligible and had to go with Plan B."
Plan B started with Walker's playing two years at Iowa Western Community College to improve his academics and chase a Division I scholarship. Now he comes off the bench as a junior for Oklahoma, the No. 3 seed in the East Regional that faces seventh-seeded Michigan State in Syracuse, N.Y.
"Dinjiyl just came to work and improved in every way he could," Iowa Western coach Jim Murray said. "We take guys to get them to the next level and he made that happen for himself. It's great that he's on a team having so much success."
Walker arrived at ANC as a high school junior and was a complement to Syracuse center Rakeem Christmas, Arizona State forward Savon Goodman, and Fairfield center Malcolm Gilbert in his first season. After they left, Walker led the Friends Schools League in points as a senior, and ANC head coach Kevin Givens expected coaches to flock to the 6-foot-1 combo guard.
But Givens added that his schooling in Canada put Walker "behind the eight ball" academically, and it wasn't until late July after he graduated from ANC that Walker found out he was academically ineligible.
"I felt bad for that kid," Givens said. "I really did, because he deserved a shot somewhere."
After Walker starred for two more years at Iowa Western and improved his grades, Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger gave him that shot.
Walker averages 10 minutes and 3.3 points per game this season, as Kruger said the guard is still adapting to the tougher competition but giving the Sooners "good minutes."