DJ Walker isn’t like most of his peers. With today’s youth, it’s easy to find things to complain about — laziness, short attention spans, being easily discouraged — but DJ Walker isn’t like his peers. A senior at St. Genevieve’s High School in Los Angeles, DJ is the star of his Catholic private school’s basketball team, against all odds.
A latecomer to the game, many of his peers were years ahead of him in coaching and skill development by the time he found his way to a basketball court. Growing up in a home without much in the way of role models, let alone money, DJ was left with very little positive direction and an easy path to gangs, drugs and violence.
“I didn’t have the resources and experiences that other kids had,” DJ says. He says this with no hint of self-pity or complacency. Instead, it’s as if this fueled him with a drive and a desire to give back. His childhood made him stronger and hungrier.
DJ is a combo-guard on his basketball team, playing both the point and shooting guard positions.
The more time you spend with him, the more you see DJ display the typical qualities for which the best players are known. The best point guards are strong leaders, calm and collected, and the ultimate team players. Shooting guards are determined and gritty; players who know how to put their head down and get to work.
DJ displays these qualities along with the best of them.
“I’m very vocal. I love to motivate [my teammates] to do the best they can do.”
DJ learned how to be a leader on the court by being a leader in his home. With his father and an only older sibling out of the picture, his family looked to DJ for a positive light.
Whether it’s an assist, encouraging words or just a pat on the back, DJ brings out the best in people around him. “I don’t like anyone on my team to be down or looked down upon.”
The kid is extremely humble, too. It’s incredible to listen to him talk about his desire to improve.
His daily routine includes:
- Waking up at 5:30 am
- Running two miles around his house
- Lifting weights in the garage
- Going to school
- Basketball practice
- Spending four hours in the gym after practice
- Doing homework
It’s wash, rinse and repeat, day after day after day. Even on Saturdays and Sundays.
DJ has a deep understanding of the vast similarities between a basketball team and a community. Just like how a basketball team cannot function with selfish players, DJ knows that a healthy, thriving community stems from everyone pitching in and helping others grow.
He volunteers his time at a local organization that provides food to people who need it. “It’s like a factory where we get all the donated food products in one community, and we pick out the best ones, the ones that are not spoiled and expired, and we give it to the less fortunate — people who are in poverty, single mothers and homeless kids.”
These aren’t basketball or school sanctioned activities, but they stem from a rather deep-rooted desire to do good. “I love to help the community and help the people that don’t have a lot, because I didn’t have a lot, so I give back in any way I can.”
When DJ says he didn’t have a lot, that might be a bit of an understatement.
“My dad left our family for someone else when I was eight, and then right after that, my mom was diagnosed with heart disease, and immediately after that, my older brother went to jail.”
It was a rough go for DJ, and those events alone would be enough to push most people onto a much different path. “Most people in my position went down the wrong path and probably went to the gang and drug things … I had to really dig deep and fight.”
He realized that if he was going to save himself from that fate, he would have to do it alone. “I had no inspiration. I had no motivation. I had to go off my own self-motivation and be happy for myself, and try to push myself.”
What has life taught him thus far? “Never give up,” DJ says. “No matter who you are in this world, you will always have a shot at something if you work hard enough.”
“I want to be the first to do something that I love, because all my family members aren’t doing what they love. They’re just doing things that they have to do to get money. I want to do something that I love, and I want to do something that I really care about.”
For DJ, that’s going to college, getting an education and playing basketball. DJ is a dream college athlete for any school, with a work ethic reminiscent of Kobe and a leader’s heart we haven’t seen since Magic.
For more information about DJ Walker, contact Sean Collyer, St. Genevieve’s High School at (818)-894-6417.