This week I got the chance to interview NBA Draft prospect Dallas Walton, a defensive anchor who leads by example. Highlights of the interview include news that Walton has tentative workouts scheduled next week with the Warriors and Nuggets. Walton is very personable and has persevered through three ACL tears to get to this point in his career.
Q: Who is Dallas Walton? What makes you unique?
A: Dallas Walton is best described by his hard work and perseverance. I’m a very personable guy. I love just talking to people and I’m a very hard worker as well. Everything I’ve been through in my life and everywhere I want to go, I know it can only be achieved through hard work. It’s consistency and not letting minor and even major setbacks knock you down.
Q: Talking about perseverance, please tell me about battling injuries during your time at Colorado and what that was like.
A: During my time at Colorado I tore my ACL in my right knee my junior year and missed my whole 2018-19 season. At that point it was my third ACL [tear] in my lifetime and [I wasn’t sure] if I wanted to keep on doing this anymore. [I had] a lot of encouragement from my family, my teammates, and my coaches from AAU to the University of Colorado. They knew that because I had been through something like this before I could definitely get through it again and still compete at a high level. [Them] having that faith in me actually really helped me get through and push to come back even though maybe at points in time during that 9-12 month process I didn’t believe I could do it myself. Thankfully I did have the recipe to come back from an injury like that and execute [a] recover[y] from a setback like that.
Q: For the draft you signed on with agent James Blackburn of GIG Sports, can you please explain the process in how you chose your agent?
A: He had a very personable approach. He lived in Winston-Salem while I was at Wake Forest so I was able to kind of see him on a day-to-day basis and in-person too [even] with COVID and everything. With everything happen[ing] on Zoom it’s kind of hard to trust people’s words over the screen sometimes [or] over the phone. He was actually there and talking to me. I realized early on when he first contacted me that I was going to be one of his top priorities. In [this draft] class I was one of the first guys that he signed on. I really liked that. As far as my history, deciding on what school I wanted to go to out of high school, I tore my ACL twice [and] didn’t have a lot of D1 offers, [so] I was going to commit to whoever really showed interest first and whoever showed that they really wanted me for me. James kind of showed that same vibe [and] loyal[ty] to me. I decided “[I’ll] stick with you too because no other agent is doing this for me right now.”
Q: On Tuesday you worked out for the Portland Trail Blazers. How did that go?
A: It was a really good workout and a great experience too. I love the city of Portland. It’s a very similar vibe to Colorado Boulder. I also got to see some of my old friends and old coaches – Chauncey Billups and Rodney Billups are on staff there. A lot of familiar faces. There were six of us [prospects] there. We got some workouts in, 1-on-1, 3v3, and shooting drills. By the end it was a very welcoming environment. They tested us [and] got our Combine numbers too. They fed us [well]. It was my first NBA workout so that was really exciting and I look forward to doing more of them as well.
Q: I go to the University of Maryland, College Park, and I saw that Fatts Russell was in the workout you had with Portland. What was playing with him like?
A: He was on my team in the 3v3. He’s a really cool dude. I was able to talk to him about his season too because I remember Maryland started out top 15 in the nation. [UMD] also had Danny Manning, who was at Wake Forest literally the year before I got there so I asked him how [playing for him was]. It was so cool talking to him and some of the other prospects in that workout too – Darius Days from LSU, Dyson Daniels from the G-League Ignite, and Mouhamed Gueye from WSU. There was a lot of talent in that workout [and] they were all really good guys too [who are] easy to talk to which made the experience even more fun.
Q: Do you have any upcoming workouts scheduled?
A: Tentatively I have the Warriors and Nuggets next week. We’re still working on dates. A lot of teams right now are getting in the younger prospects so that means the guys who are graduates or seniors are getting a little bit later workouts or tentative schedules.
Q: What makes you the right pick for an NBA team?
A: What I bring to a team is more than what I can bring to them on the court. I bring a culture and a mindset off the court as well that translates to winning and competing for championships. What that means is not only does my story inspire but just how hard I work on and off the court and just in life in general. I think that personable approach can help team cultures and help team chemistries. My skills on the court are being able to rebound and guard multiple positions and also being able to shoot at a very high and efficient level. I can bring [that] to any NBA team.
Q: To build on that a bit, what role do you see yourself playing professionally?
A: My role professionally would definitely be as a big guy, a stretch five, stretch four. I would definitely have to be one guy who rebounds and defends at a very high level. There’s a lot of scorers in the NBA so right now teams are looking for guys who can rebound and defend. Obviously I can shoot too so I just [need] to make sure I stay efficient. But right now, it’s just making sure that I would be a defensive anchor. One thing people notice about me as a center and a big guy is that I’m one of the loudest dudes on the court. My role would be a defensive anchor, blocking shots, changing shots, and making sure it’s hard to score in the paint because that’s my job, that’s where I make my bread and butter.
Q: There’s definitely a lot of teams that could use a defensive anchor and rebounder. What is your biggest focus when it comes to improving your game?
A: I want to be able to find my areas and opportunities in multiple ways. [I am] making sure I improve my ball-handling and making sure I stay an efficient shooter. For me [so far] it’s mainly [been] catching-and-shooting or catching in a spot that I am able to work efficiently in. Being able to get into those spots myself is something I could definitely work on more.
Q: What is your daily routine like as you prepare for the draft?
A: Back at home in Colorado training at altitude has been really great for me. Usually I start my day by going to the University of Colorado and working out with my strength coach up there doing strength and conditioning in Boulder. Then I usually drive about an hour and a half down to Colorado Springs to get my basketball workout in with the Pluto training facility with Mike Moody and Trey Harris – great trainers. [Finally], usually I come back up here to Denver, another hour drive, to get some recovery in. Even though I’m doing all this driving I know it’s going to pay off in the end because I’m making sure I get in the work I need.
Q: When you transferred schools from Colorado to Wake Forest was that a smooth transition or were there obstacles you had to overcome during the process?
A: It was a very smooth transition just because I had so much experience with collegiate basketball at that point. I was coming in as one of those old-head veterans. I was looked at as a leader basically from the moment I stepped on campus. We would lift in the mornings at seven then practice at nine then I would work from ten until five or six everyday – I was also doing a Nike internship during that time. That part of the transition process was a little rough during the summer just because there was so much going on and I was learn[ing] a new system and a new way of practicing that I wasn’t used to. Once fall started I was named captain of the team – there was a lot of responsibility put on my shoulders but I was able to handle it because of the experience I had prior to going to Wake Forest.
Q: What did you learn playing for different coaches at these different schools?
A: The biggest thing I learned playing for different coaches is that even though their styles and how they operate on a day-to-day basis may be different, their overall goal and vision is the same – what they want on offense, what they want on defense, what they’re looking for – it’s all the same. For example, Coach Forbes loves going live a lot in practice so there’s not a lot of breakdowns in his practices. With all that live play you’re learning on the fly, learning on the go, so it takes a lot of leadership to correct younger guys who are making mistakes that coaches may not see with all that live play. But, how Coach Forbes operates at Wake Forest, the idea of staying on the court by playing defense at a very high level, is very similar to how Coach Boyle operates at CU. I think a lot of college coaches really emphasize defense first because there’s a lot of offensively gifted players out there and I think that defense is one of the main ways to win games as well.
Q: Would you be interested in coaching someday down the line with your leadership skills, especially on the defensive end?
A: I’ve given it some thought. I think I would be a good coach but I’m not ready for that. I’ve done some camps where I coached some kids. It was cool building those bonds but it’s a lot. I have a lot of respect for coaches because of what they go through and what they sacrifice from their families to their time. I did it before and I was good at it but I don’t know if I’m ready for it
Q: Back to your time at Wake Forest, what was it like playing with Jake LaRavia?
A: Jake LaRavia is a special talent. I remember when we first got on campus in the summer. Everybody was kind of figuring out each other’s games but Jake LaRavia’s game was defined early on. It was like okay, this guy is really good. He’s just one of those dudes who kind of does it all – he’s able to dribble it really well, he’s a big body so he goes down in the post a little bit, and he can shoot really well. He’s a really good guy off the court as well – he was my roommate at Wake Forest so we got a lot of time hanging out and talking with him about where his mind was. Really great teammate. Along with him, Alondes Williams [AKA ManMan] is also in the pre-draft process as well. Isaiah Mucius and I as well. There were a lot of pros on the team. Daivien Williamson too, [who] went back [to school].
Q: It’s cool you have peers going through the pre-draft process that you can discuss with.
A: Jake, ManMan, Isaiah and I have a group message talking about the workouts. We talk about how [they went] and what to expect. It’s cool to have other people to go through the process with.
Q: So now a little more about you to finish off. What’s your favorite pre-game music to listen to?
A: I like a lot of beatstrumentals. It’s not a lot of lyrics but just beats to get my head clear and my heart rate going – I kind of fill in the blanks with the lyrics. A lot of just beats, hip-hop beats, really.
Q: Do you ever meditate?
A: I’m a big meditator. I usually try to do that at least twice a day.
Q: Who are your role models both on and off the court?
A: My parents definitely are my role models in terms of their work ethic. That’s something I aspire to emulate and approach with my basketball game as well – how they approach their everyday lives, their jobs, and projects around the house, they work so hard. I want basketball to be my job [so] I need to work with the same ferociousness and consistency as they do. Basketball-wise, I would say probably Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett in terms of power forward big men who have so much passion for the game and are so talented and so skilled. They are great leaders as well – their leadership styles are very similar to mine – very hands-on with all of the guys but they really show their leadership with what they did on a day-to-day basis. Big-time leaders by example. You don’t have to be overly vocal [if you lead by example].
Q: You mentioned your Nike internship before. I wanted to get to know a little more, what are you interested in off the court?
A: When I was working with Nike I was in their corporate narrative story-telling department. I was working on ad campaigns, doing creative briefs. During that time the Summer Olympics were going on so I was creating galleries and stuff like that for them. That’s what I want to do off the court – a lot of marketing and finding new ways of selling products. Whether it’s shoe[s], clothing, [etc.], every product has a story to it and sometimes telling that story can give it more meaning to whoever is consuming it and I think that’s really cool.