CHICAGO — Basketball may never define Lonnie Walker IV.
The University of Miami guard and Reading native rarely watches the game on television unless he’s scouting his next opponent.
“Nine times out of 10, I’m trying to discover the world and figure out what’s going on with this earth,” Walker said here at the NBA combine.
That’s because he loves to watch the Discovery Channel. The self-described geek and conspiracy theorist also has his eyes glued to the Animal Planet channel and shows about aliens.
“I’m a sponge when it comes to knowledge,” Walker said. “My grandmother always told me knowledge is the most powerful thing known to man. I take that as one of my legacies.”
However, another one of his legacies is basketball. He got that from his father, who molded him into a potential lottery pick. NBA.com’s consensus mock draft has him being selected at No. 14 by the Denver Nuggets. However, he could drop to No. 18 (the San Antonio Spurs) or No. 20 (the Minnesota Timberwolves), depending on the fit.
The 6-foot-4 shooting guard, with excellent body control and a quick first step, met Friday with the Sixers, who have the 10th and 26th picks in the first round.
“It went well,” he said. “See a little bit of Elton Brand and all those guys, I felt like a little kid, seeing guys I watched on TV. It went well.”
Walker said the excitement of being interviewed by Brand, the former Sixer who is now the general manager of the Sixers’ G League affiliate Delaware Blue Coats, was a result of never envisioning it. He’s confident in his abilities and worked hard to become a draft prospect, but the 19-year-old said that he “felt like a little kid” and that he was “in Disneyland” to experience something he’s been dreaming about his whole life.
“You dream about this,” he said, “but not too many people get to do it, and it’s a blessing. I thank God every day and my father for continuously pressuring me and making me work hard.”
While he didn’t come out and say it, meeting with the Sixers probably had a special meaning for Walker for a different reason.
“I didn’t watch basketball growing up. So if you want to say I’m a Sixers fan, I was a fan for all NBA teams,” he said. “I didn’t really have a certain team or specific team I watched. But growing up, Allen Iverson was my favorite player. So it definitely was the Sixers if you are asking.”
Walker thinks he would be a good fit for Philly. He has drawn comparisons to Utah Jazz shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, a rookie-of-the-year finalist. But he said he has been told that he compares to Indiana Pacers all-star guard Victor Oladipo, based on his athleticism.
“I got the utmost respect to him,” Walker said. “I’m not a Victor Olapido. I got a lot of things to work on and improve as an individual. But sooner or later, I want to become a star.”
The freshman averaged 11.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.2 turnovers in 27.8 minutes with the Hurricanes.
He’ll need to improve his defensive intensity in the NBA and become more engaged when the ball isn’t in his hands.
But Walker made clutch plays for Miami throughout the season.
“That’s in my DNA,” he said. “When it’s time to hit the final shot to tie the game, go to overtime, that’s what I’m built for.”