By Eric Dixon
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania – Walter Hester of Paul Robeson High School (Philadelphia, Pa.) is a “bucket”. The 5-11 combo guard can “flat out score the ball” as was evidenced in a recent win over Eastern University Academy where he scored an impressive 47 points to help get his team into tonight’s Class A championship game against Sankofa Academy.
Hester has started all but a handful of games in a four year varsity career that has seen him amass more than 1500 points from all three levels. The senior is averaging 27 ppg game, which represents a 8 point improvement over his junior season scoring average. He attributes the increase to a number of factors, including his ability to improve his pull up jump shot and “be more aggressive going to the rim” to draw fouls at a higher rate than in previous years.
It didn’t take long for the staff at Robeson to see Hester was special. He began his freshman year on the bench the first 3 or 4 games before one of the starters was slowed by an injury. “We tried it in practice it in practice and then they just kept it like that,” according to Hester.
His ascent to neighborhood folk and family hero began in middle school, says Joslyn Hester-Parham. “I wasn’t too into at first. I mean knew he played ball, but I didn’t know he play play.” She went on to say how it was around his eighth grade year when people from their southwest Philadelphia community would come up to her and tell “your brother play ball real nice.”
Unfortunately, it’s taken college scouts a little longer to recognize his worth as his recruitment has been “slower than you might expect for a guy with his numbers,” says Robeson’s head coach, Robert Powlen. He insists if given the opportunity “Walt”, as he is affectionately known by family and friends, would be a great addition to a college program.
“On the next level, he can play either guard position and will continue to get stronger and will adjust to the college game. I truly expect him to have a great college career. His character, talent and will to win will never let him down” says Powlen.
Hester, a Philadelphia All public performer who is the 6th of 9 siblings, credits his brothers Khalil, Tyrefe, Nigel and Julius with helping him hone his game at the playground at 51st and Kingsessing. Hester is not being very tall in scholastic basketball terms but for pick up games he grew up having a to “play down low” and guard bigger players. The experience has helped him develop confidence in playing against taller players. Other influences are his mentor and trainer Rafiq Strand.
The Achieve More AAU basketball program allowed Hester to do just that by taking him to out of state tournaments and giving him free rein to explore and develop his creative shot making abilities against unfamiliar competition. “It was a good experience, they gave me more freedom. I didn’t do any thinking, I just played my game.”
Tonight against Sankofa, Hester will look to continue to do just that. He’s going to give it all he’s got, as he always does. “We are going to take what they give us. We are going to be scrappy and get the 50-50 balls and just go after it.” Sounds like something he’s used to doing.