Cardozo’s Walters chooses Norfolk

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Barely a month into his career at Cardozo High School, Reynaldo “Junior” Walters found himself on the campus at Norfolk State. During a non-league tournament at Old Dominion, the Judges visited the nearby Virginia school.

Two years later, he decided to be there every day for four years, verbally committing to third-year coach Anthony Evans’ program of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

“Not at that moment did I think it would be the perfect spot,” he said, “but as time went on, it came on as a great place to go.”

The 5-foot-11 Walters, a 17-year-old rising senior from Jamaica, was recruited by Norfolk State as a point guard, the position he played before arriving at the Bayside school. He has handled the ball for the Judges, and Ron Naclerio said he will run a two point-guard offense this fall, using Walters and rising junior Chris Gayot on the ball.

“He’s improved a lot, his self-discipline has improved a lot,” Naclerio said. “He’s a kid that has always wanted it. He understands it’s more about ‘we’ than ‘me.’”

He will join several familiar faces there, such as former Campus Magnet star Kyle O’Quinn and Rob Hampton, formerly of Christ the King, both of whom recommended the program. Bronx natives Christian Morris and Tim Zephyr, along with Aleek Pauline of Queens, are also in the fold. Even Evans is a Brooklyn product, and assistant coach Rob Jones, who spearheaded the recruiting effort on Walters, was an assistant coach at St. Mary’s of Manhasset (L.I.) and has ties to the city.

“If they can fit in, I can fit in,” said Walters, who averaged 11 points and four assists per game last year, leading the Judges to the Queens AA regular-season crown.

Walters received interest from other Division I programs — schools such as George Mason, Albany, Binghamton, Boston University, Stony Brook and LIU. But Norfolk State was involved the longest — since watching Walters as a sophomore — and offered him a chance to contribute immediately.

Jones would call Naclerio often this summer after watching Walters play with the New York Panthers AAU team. He would offer rave reviews, mostly about Walters’ toughness. Plus, unlike other schools, Norfolk State didn’t request Walters prep for a year.

“It shows they trust me and figure I can get better and help them next year,” Walters said.

“I know if he works hard, he can definitely play there,” said Naclerio, who often doesn’t like his players to verbally commit early, for fear it could curtail a better situation down the road. Not so with Walters, who the longtime coach felt was worried about his future. Norfolk State, Naclerio said, was the right fit anyway.

“I like to go into my senior year with something to look forward to instead of worrying about who is looking at me, who is going to offer me,” Walters said. “It’s best to grab what I can grab now, just work hard and take advantage of my opportunity.”

Updated 6:32 pm, October 10, 2011
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