Keocia Walker has learned to enjoy the stares from opposing teams as she walks onto the court.
At 4 feet, 9 inches with a solid pair of shoes, the Myrtle Beach sophomore doesn’t exactly look like she’s playing the right sport during warmups. When the game begins, it’s a different story.
The Toast of the Coast Girls Basketball Player of the Year racked up numerous postseason awards after leading the Seahawks to the Region VII-AAA title for the first time in three seasons. But none of that happened until she went through a similar experience with her own team after moving here from Georgia in November.
“When she came out to our first practice after she moved here, I asked her ‘Can you even play basketball?’ ” Myrtle Beach coach Jennifer Dennison said.
Said Walker: “It cracks me up now. I don’t let it bother me much anymore.”
She’s proved that in her short time on the court for Myrtle Beach.
Walker was named the region’s Player of the Year. A week later, she was one of just 16 girls in South Carolina named to the Class AAA All-State team. Her statistics – nine points, five assists and four steals per game – weren’t overly impressive.
But Myrtle Beach was a different team with her on the floor. The Seahawks could play faster, and some of the team’s height was able to get closer to the basket to create scoring and defensive mismatches.
The progress started with her teammates.
“They were excited that I came and they had a point guard,” Walker said. “It didn’t take them long to let me in.”
Still, the 2013-2014 season was a bit of a dry run in Dennison’s mind. Walker’s arrival allowed the Seahawks to move some of those other pieces around.
Myrtle Beach used the first six weeks of the season – including the CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational – to get ready for a region most believed would be won by some team other than the Seahawks. Instead, Dennison’s team started to peak in January and won the Region VII-AAA title with a game to spare.
“Next year, we should be able to be a completely different team with her here the whole time,” Dennison said. “A coach hopes to turn her keys over to the point guard. We had to see if the trust was there.”
It certainly was, and the team is already starting to think big for next year given the fact that every player is expected to return.
That list begins with Walker, a player who piled up accolades in her first season at the beach.
“I didn’t expect any of it,” she said. “Being so new and not being a 20-point scorer, it caught me off guard.”
Much like she has done to opponents.
Contact IAN GUERIN at firstname.lastname@example.org.