UM’s Walton ready to make pitch to NBA teams

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Derrick Walton Jr. has never played on a baseball team in his life. “At all.” “Ever.” Not even T-ball. And, OK, yeah, sure, it definitely showed during his ceremonial first pitch prior to Thursday’s Tigers game at Comerica Park.

The Michigan basketball star lobbed a soft toss well off the plate, shuffling the feet of his catcher, Mikie Mahtook.

Michigan basketball player Derrick Walton, Jr. throws out the ceremonial first pitch before Thursday's game between the Tigers and Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park in Detroit.

“It’s not a field of profession for me,” Walton said with a laugh in the tunnel afterward, dressed spiffily in a home Tigers No. 10 jersey.

He’s got other plans, anyway.

Walton, who just wrapped up his career as the Wolverines’ point guard, is close to signing with an agent, he said. It’s basically a done deal; the paperwork just hasn’t been signed.

Then it’s full-speed ahead on his ultimate goal: playing professional basketball, preferably in the NBA.

“I’ve got my mind set on one thing, and I’m just gonna get it done,” said Walton, 22, a Detroit native who had his family and friends with him at the ballpark Thursday. “Playing in the NBA.”

Walton isn’t exactly generating a ton of buzz in NBA Draft circles.

Fellow Michigan senior Zak Irvin has gotten more attention, and of course, so have D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner, who’ve declared for the draft after special NCAA Tournament runs — but won’t hire agents, leaving the door open to return to school.

“I’m pretty sure they’ll make the best decisions for themselves,” Walton said. “They’ve got enough talent. Of course, everyone has something to work on. Eventually, whenever they do decide, they’ll be great players in the NBA. They showed it this year. That’s why they have the attention that they’re getting.”

Walton also had a special season, averaging 15.5 points.

He saved his best for last, too, scoring 20 or more in four of the final five games — including the Big Ten tournament semifinals and championship game, and two of the three games in Michigan’s run to the Sweet 16.

Many analysts during that stretch called him the hottest point guard in the country.

“It was great, one of those things you can’t put into words,” Walton said of Michigan’s season. “It was a great experience.”

He’s hoping more great experiences in basketball are ahead.

He’s still awaiting word on whether he’ll get an invitation to the NBA Combine in Chicago in May. Even if he doesn’t, he hopes to take advantage of the individual workouts with teams before the NBA Draft in June.

For now, he’s wrapping up his degree and working out, preparing for the future — whatever that may hold. At least we know it’s not baseball.

“After that pitch,” said Walton, who warmed up in the cage with Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, “I don’t think so.”