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Boys basketball: Jontrel Walker’s numbers on the rise

West Aurora's Jontrel Walker scores after steal Friday against West Chicago. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media

West Aurora's Jontrel Walker scores after a steal Friday against West Chicago. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 19, 2013 3:01AM

The hard work is paying off for West Aurora’s Jontrel Walker.

The third-year varsity player has not rested on his laurels, notes assistant coach Paul Kieffer, who works with the Blackhawks’ guards.

“As a freshman, it was a pretty big transition (from junior high) to playing varsity for him,” Kieffer said. “I don’t think he shot the ball particularly well. His sophomore year, he took a backseat to Juwan (Starks) and this year, his point production is up. He’s worked hard on his shot and I think his shooting percentage is far better.”

It certainly is.

Walker averaged 5.2 points his freshman season with shooting percentages of 29.5 for all field goals, 17.6 for three-pointers and 79.7 for free throws. This year, he’s scoring at a 19.3 clip and shooting 44 percent from the floor, including 38 percent from beyond the arc and 79.8 percent from the line.

“He works pretty hard,” Kieffer said. “He never takes himself out of a drill in practice. He’s the first guy in and doesn’t come out of a scrimmage in practice, either.”

His growth shows in his other numbers, too. From freshman year to this, Walker’s assists are up one (3.1), his turnovers are down one (2.3), while steals (1.9) and rebounds have doubled (3.3).

While the 6-foot Walker and his teammates know the game at crosstown rival East Aurora looms on Saturday, he figured on Monday that coach Gordie Kerkman’s focus this week would be on Friday’s matchup with another East, DuPage Valley Conference rival Glenbard East.

“This is (like) our conference championship game. We’ve got the whole second half (of the league season) but this is a big one,” Walker said.

The Rams and Blackhawks (13-2 overall) wrap up the first half of the DVC schedule Friday with first place on the line since both are 6-0 in the eight-team league.

“Naperville North won (the DVC title) last year and Glenbard East won it the two years before that,” Walker said. “(Glenbard East) always come out hard and plays us well. We’ve gotta make sure we match their intensity.”

He knows the East-West game will take care of itself with both teams ready to play. It will be Walker’s first time playing against second cousin DeJon Talbert of East, who missed last year’s matchup with an injury.

For both, their first East-West memories go back to Walker’s older brother, Johnny, who was a 5-foot-9 point guard on the 2005-06 West team that reached the state quarterfinals before falling to Schaumburg.

“Those are my first memories,” said Jontrel Walker. “Especially his junior and senior years. His sophomore year he was up on varsity but he didn’t play much.”

Johnny Walker averaged 9.5 points and 5.0 assists for that 29-2 team.

“Jontrel is more of a scorer and looks to score more than Johnny did, but Johnny was just as good a shooter or maybe even better,” Kerkman said. “We had a lot of balance on that (05-06 team), but we’ve got a lot of balance on this team, too.”

Last year, Jontrel Walker and his teammates came one win from getting downstate like his brother’s team did.

“We feel like we’re playing just as good (this year) but we won’t know until we hit the playoffs,” he said. “And first, we want to look at the conference championship.”

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