Any doubts Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy guard Derrick Walton Jr. might have entertained on the basketball court dissipated last summer in Las Vegas.
Walton led the Michigan Mustangs to an unbeaten run for an AAU national championship in July and claimed Most Valuable Player honors.
More importantly, the 6-foot Michigan recruit learned how far he could take his game, his high school coach and father said.
"It taught Derrick he could play with anybody," Chandler Park coach Derrick Walton said.
Walton went on to average 26 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and five steals as a senior this winter at Chandler Park.
The performance earned Walton Associated Press Class B Player of the Year honors.
"It means a lot," Walton said of his team's success and the individual recognition. "It means we are doing things right."
Walton headlines an AP Class B All-State first team that includes seniors Keith Brushwhyler of Stevensville Lakeshore, Quantrell Hastings of Wyoming Godwin Heights, Jalen Hayes of Lansing Sexton, Dontel Highsmith of Dowagiac, Austin Johnson of Spring Lake, Mizell Lippett of Warren Fitzgerald, Josh Kozinski of Edwardsburg, Lance Monroe of Bridgeport and Ryan Schall of Comstock Park, as well as juniors Darrell Davis of Detroit Douglass and Edmond Sumner of Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day.
Both Walton and Highsmith were unanimous first-team selections.
Stevensville Lakeshore's Sean Schroeder is the Class B Coach of the Year.
Johnson led Spring Lake to one of the best seasons in school history. The Lakers finished with a 21-2 record. They blazed through the Lakes Eight Conference with a perfect 12-0 record, then proceeded to win the program’s first district championship since 1995.
Along the way, Johnson set the school’s all-time scoring record with 1,264 career points. This winter, he averaged 24 points and nine rebounds per game for the Lakers.
“It’s pretty exciting, and I think, very well deserved,” said Lakers’ coach Bill Core, who believes the last Spring Lake player to earn first-team all-state was Kent Wiersma in the 1980s.
“The first thing that stands out about Austin is his work ethic,” Core said. “That’s why I’m so happy for him. I know how much he’s sacrificed to be as good a basketball player as he can be. And breaking the school scoring record, that was special. Plus, in his three years on varsity, we were 50-19, and his numbers got better and better every year.”
Johnson finished his three-year career averaging 18.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Walton led Chandler Park to a 20-4 overall record, winning a district title before losing in the regional semifinals to Detroit Country Day.
"His leadership and his confidence," Derrick Walton said of the areas of improvement he saw in his son's game as a senior after the AAU championship last summer. "He was very confident he could make shots. He led verbally. He also led by example. He did everything I asked him to do and beyond."
Walton played on a talented AAU team that included AP Class C Player of the Year and Michigan Mr. Basketball Monte Morris of Flint Beecher. They formed a formidable backcourt that no one in Las Vegas could beat.
Walton handled the point, while Morris shifted from his position in high school to shooting guard.
In the AAU championship win over a team from New York, Walton totaled 16 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds to earn MVP honors. Playing successfully with Morris, an Iowa State recruit, proved to Walton he could thrive with other elite players.
"It gave me a lot of confidence, let me know I could play with anybody," Walton said.
Walton continued to play the same way at Chandler Park this winter, his father said.
Walton shot 72 percent from the floor, including 51 percent from 3-point range, and 85 percent from the foul line. He scored a season-high 40 points in one game and had 20 assists in another.
"He's consistent and efficient in everything he does," Derrick Walton said. "Something I see every day is his demeanor. He's just a team guy."
Walton meant everything to Chandler Park, his father said.
"I told everybody when we were nominating for Mr. Basketball voting that what many don't understand is that he didn't step into a traditional school (and excel)," Derrick Walton said of his son. "Derrick put Chandler Park on the map. Everybody knows who Chandler Park is now. That goes beyond where you can go into a traditional program that has tradition.
"Derrick was the first one that built our program."