Zach Walton turns 21 on May 21, but the 6-foot-6 basketball swingman from Morton, Wa., has already opened one of his most treasured gifts - a National Letter of Intent to play basketball next season at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
In signing with Drexel Dragons, Walton becomes the first alum of the Roots Sports Academy to ink with a Division 1 program. Two other Roots players - Grant Gibb (Eastern Washington University) and Evan Troy (Brigham Young University) - walked on at their respective schools.
Drexel, with 24,000 undergraduates, plays in the Colonial Athletic Association along with College of Charleston, Northeastern, Hofstra, William and Mary (Ex-Mark Morris coach John Sapinsky's alma mater), Towson, Elon, Delaware, James Madison and University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
The Dragons were 13-20 last season under head coach Zach Spiker. Spiker has a 22-43 overall mark at Drexel. Prior, the 2000 Ithaca College graduate coached at Army. Spiker coached the Black Knights of the Hudson to 65 victories in his first five seasons. Spiker joined Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski as the only coaches in Army history to win at least 65 games in that span.
Walton, who played for Morton/White Pass in high school, spent two seasons at Edmonds Community College. Walton, who will have two years of eligibility remaining, averaged 20.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore. Walton shot 54.7 percent from the field, including 41.8 percent from deep last season. He will bring the Dragons depth at the small forward position, according to Coach Spiker.
"Zach fits the system of values we are building for Drexel Basketball," Spiker said on the school's athletic web page. "He has a high level of appreciation and respect for our process, which is important to us as we continue to build and reinforce a positive winning culture. He understands our program's vision and is excited to be a Drexel student-athlete."
Walton joins early signee Coletrane Washington in this year's recruiting class and will begin his Drexel career in 2018-19. Washington played at Quaker Valley near Pittsburgh.
So how did a kid from Morton get on Drexel's radar?
"Paul Fortier is the person who recruited me," Walton said.
Fortier was an All-Pac 10 forward for the University of Washington in 1986. He then spent eight seasons as an assistant coach at Washington before moving on to Cal Poly as an associate head coach. Fortier spent three years at Cal Poly before accepting an assistant coach post at Drexel.
Walton, who was born in Oregon, is tickled to be joining the Dragons.
"I'm really excited to play," the junior-to-be said during a phone interview.
Walton, who is extremely soft-spoken, was hesistant initially to describe what he can provide the Dragons next season.
"My game is to go out there and be a playmaker," he said with a nervous laugh. "I can score, but I like to get everyone involved."
Walton added that he is a solid defender with a decent shot. His coach at Roots - co-founder Josh Wilson - rode him hard to improve in all facets of his game.
"Josh is the most competitive person I've ever seen," Walton admitted. "He (Wilson) played a lot of ball overseas and he really pushed you."
Walton plans to major in Communications/Public Relations at Drexel.