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2018 NBA Draft

Lonnie Walker IV: ‘I’m the true definition of different’

The former Miami guard is a unique prospect, from his hair to his views on the world

Merriam-Webster defines different as “partly or totally unlike in nature, form or quality.” Lonnie Walker IV has his own definition.

“In my opinion, I’m the true definition of different. The true definition of unique. So it’s gonna be interesting to see how well I adapt and change and how well the NBA’s ready to see somebody like myself,” Walker said.

Walker dons a hairstyle that has been called a pineapple. He is constantly trying to educate himself on the world and has said the Earth is an illusion. Despite being a one-and-done, the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder loves school and aims to get his degree.

The ex-University of Miami star guard also hopes to be a difference-maker in the NBA next season on and off the court. He is projected to be a first-round pick in Thursday’s NBA draft in Brooklyn, New York.

“It’s bigger than just basketball just to be able to motivate the kids, the people, the friends, the family that are out there,” Walker said.

Walker is a native of Reading, the fifth-largest city in Pennsylvania with a population of about 90,000 people. The now-defunct railways transporting company Reading Railroad got its name from the city. Reading Railroad is one of the four railroad properties in the Monopoly board game.

“I’m from Reading, Pennsylvania. When you make it out from there, you feel like you can do almost the impossible. The impossible becomes possible in your mind,” Walker said.

AreaVibes.com gave Reading an “F” in crime, education, employment and housing. According to the website, the overall crime rate in Reading is 16 percent higher than the national average, the violent crime rate is 76 percent higher than the national average and the property crime rate is 6 percent higher than the national average.

Walker said it was “definitely a challenge” growing up in Reading.

“I felt like if you’re from Reading or you’re from some other spot like that, it definitely raises you a lot differently just on how to approach life,” Walker said. “And I had to grow up a lot faster than the norm. But almost every other day just walking to school, coming home from school or whatever it shall be, you’re always hit with adversity or some sort of problem that you had to overcome.

“Just having that day in and day out, being prepared for whatever may happen if you walk out those doors, it definitely gives you a different edge and a different perspective on how to approach life. At least that has definitely helped me more than the norm.”

Walker credits his father, Lonnie Walker III, for being the role model he needed to make it out of Reading. His father had a strong work ethic, as he worked as many as four jobs to make ends meet for his family. Walker said at times he didn’t see his father for days because he was working.

“My father, he’s a very passionate, fearless man,” Walker IV said. “In this family, we don’t fear failure. We have a win-win situation, no matter what it is. So, having a father like that, who keeps on motivating myself and pushing me, it’s definitely an edge that helps me out.

“How hard he’s working and the work ethic basically just speaks for itself. It shows what type of person he is, and just his work ethic and his mentality and how he approaches life. So he’s definitely been a motivator for myself, and taught me just how to be passionate and continue to work hard.”

Walker IV said the hardest challenge he had in Reading was being strong enough to cut ties with friends who were a bad influence. He hopes that being drafted on Thursday will be motivational to the youths of Reading.

“Not too many people growing up in Reading, Pennsylvania, ever have the father figure or someone to look up to, and to feel like they’re worth something,” Walker said. “So me getting an opportunity to get drafted by a team or get picked up, I feel like it’s going to be a big thing for my community just on the mental side of things. Seeing kids and the youth saying, ‘Wow, Lonnie made it to his dream.’ Whatever you shall be, whatever you shall become, you can do it from anywhere.”

Walker led Reading High School to its first Pennsylvania state championship in boys’ basketball with the 2017 PIAA Class 6A crown. The 2017 McDonald’s All-American selection scored 1,828 career points to surpass former NBA player Donyell Marshall’s school record. ESPN’s 18th-ranked prospect in the Class of 2017 could have followed the elite norm by signing with Kentucky, Arizona, Syracuse or Villanova, but he instead chose the University of Miami.

Walker averaged 11.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 34.6 percent from 3-point range in 27.8 minutes per game for the Hurricanes last season as a true freshman. On April 4, he tweeted his decision to enter the NBA draft.

On what he can bring to the NBA next season, Walker said: “Just the overall aspect offensively and defensively. I feel like defensively, I can guard either a 1 [point guard], 2 [shooting guard] or 3 [small forward]. And then offensively, I can shoot with the best of them. I’m athletic. I can jump with the best of them. So whatever my team needs me to do, I’ll make sure I don’t let my team down.

“I wanted the challenge. I felt like physically and mentally I covered all aspects of the game. And the only way for me to improve myself and continue to get better is to take that next step and challenge myself.”

Walker said he is working on his aggressiveness offensively, ballhandling, left-hand skill set and body strength. He was measured with a 6-foot-10½-inch wingspan and a 40-inch vertical at the NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago.

One longtime NBA scout told The Undefeated that he expects Walker to be drafted in the Nos. 9-15 range.

“He’s a good player who is very athletic,” the scout said. “He has a lot of NBA interest. He can get off the floor and go up in traffic. He has to tighten his handle and become a better passer. But he has impressive athleticism and is a very likable prospect.”

Walker made the 2018 All-Academic Atlantic Coast Conference team. He said it is important for him to eventually earn his bachelor’s degree in business and that “knowledge is the most powerful thing known to man.” Walker said his grandmother and father have always preached the importance of academics to him.

“Academics was the end-all, be-all, before anything, before basketball, before any sport,” Walker said. “Knowledge and intelligence and getting that degree, later on the road, is what’s going to make you and keep you from not just being a temporary [NBA] player. Sooner or later, I want to make an impact and change the world, so getting that diploma, getting that degree, it means so much to me. Continue to gain knowledge in life.”

Walker told media at the NBA pre-draft camp: “When you talk about facts and things of that nature, it’s amazing to me we’ve discovered so much about this world, yet we don’t anything about this world.” Asked whether he thought the Earth was flat or round, Walker said, “The Earth is not flat, in my opinion, but the Earth, on my conspiracy, the Earth is definitely an illusion.”

Walker went to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago the day before he worked out for the Bulls. He is constantly feeding his thirst to learn about “almost every aspect of life” and often watches Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel.

“Just looking at Third World countries, religions, cultures, and seeing the outside world,” Walker said. “Being able to grow and see different perspectives in life is what interests me. Continue to gain knowledge. So, growing up, this is what I love to do. Outside of basketball, I love to gain knowledge and become smarter and watch things that not too many people really watch.”

As for his unique hairstyle, Walker said he does not plan on changing it anytime soon.

“When it gets a little too dangerous and I can’t play with, then it will be time to cut it off,” he said. “But this is what defines Lonnie Walker, and I think it’s unique to have my own status.”

With a versatile game and a variety of interests, Walker will certainly be different from the norm as he arrives in the NBA.

“I’m kind of level-headed, but I’ve still got a lot to prove and show the world who I am,” he said.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.