The journey of chasing a dream isn’t usually easy, and for Devondrick Walker, it has been quite the opposite.
From not playing varsity basketball until he was a senior at South Garland High School in Texas, to rarely playing after accepting a last-second offer from Northwestern Oklahoma State, to attending NBA G League open tryouts because he didn’t have any other opportunities on the table, to dealing with a season-ending injury after going overseas to Australia to join the National Basketball League’s Perth Wildcats, there has, however, been one common theme: never giving up.
Despite the obstacles, Walker always seems to do whatever it takes to overcome them. When he wasn’t receiving offers to play collegiately after high school, a connection that his high school assistant coach had helped him land an offer from Northwestern Oklahoma State. When he wasn’t getting a lot of playing time there, he attended an open gym at Texas A&M University-Commerce, and after playing a few games, the coaches signed him on the spot.
After going undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft, he attended open tryouts with the Austin Spurs, Texas Legends and Rio Grande Valley Vipers, and Austin picked him up. After being waived, former assistant coach for Austin, Mike Miller, became head coach of the Westchester Knicks and brought Walker along with him.
From there, it was a trade with Westchester that landed Walker in Delaware, and playing for the Blue Coats is what he calls “the highlight of his career up to this point.” He felt as though the team was a great fit for him from the coaching staff to the players, and he appreciates the confidence the team gave him to play at his highest level and believe in himself.
“Even though the G League is a grind night in and night out, it teaches you life lessons, and I can truly say that Delaware and the Blue Coats will forever have a critical role in whatever future successes that come my way,” Walker said.
It was in Delaware that all of Walker’s hard work began to pay off as he started garnering a lot of attention. He shot a perfect 12-12 from three-point range at the 2017 NBA G League Showcase, was runner-up in the 2017 NBA G League Three Point Contest and earned the 2017 NBA G League Most Improved Player Award. Despite all three of those being exciting moments in Walker’s career, the Three Point Contest was the most special to him.
“My favorite memory by far is when I got to represent the Delaware in New Orleans for the Three Point Contest and getting my idol Isiah Thomas to commentate and cheer me on during the event,” Walker said. “I got a chance to meet the man that made me start playing and inspired me to keep going.”
Not only is Thomas his idol, he’s also the person he stole his nickname “Tuss” from. When Walker was in seventh grade, he watched the movie “Hoop Dreams” that Thomas was featured in the night before he had tryouts, hoping that he could gain some confidence or get some tips, and learned that Thomas used the nickname Tuss growing up. When Walker got to the gym for tryouts the next day, a couple of the guys asked him what his name was and “as cool as cool can get” he told them they could call him Tuss, and as he would say, “the rest is history.”
After spending the 2016-17 season with Delaware, Walker decided to join the Perth Wildcats in Australia for the 2017-18 season. One of his good friends he met playing in Austin, Bryce Cotton, had just won a championship with the team and reached out to him asking if he’d be interested in playing there. After doing some research, he thought, “Why not?”
Although Walker said his time in Australia turned out to be one of the most fascinating experiences of his life, it’s also the place where his basketball career came to a halt. Before games even began, he suffered a season-ending fracture in his left foot. Because it was his first major injury, he understandably had many questions and uncertainties. At first, he thought it wasn’t serious and he’d be back on the court in a couple months, but after learning he needed surgery and the recovery plan, his mind went into a different mode. Walker said he had to shift his focus away from basketball and turn his attention more toward his body and overall mental health.
Walker chose to approach his injury with the same positive attitude with which he had faced his other obstacles. He actually found the recovery process very rewarding, slowly going from not being able to walk to gradually getting better every day.
“Sometimes we lose sight of the small things and the progress that we’re making in our life because we’re so caught up in other things, but when you’re only goal is to walk, jump or even do a calf raise, you notice every bit of improvement, which is one of the most satisfying feelings,” Walker said.
From a physical standpoint, the recovery process took about eight months, but Walker said that “the mental aspect of getting back to the old you is an ongoing theme that you have to tackle and conquer every day until it’s not a thought anymore.”
Walker was reacquired by Delaware on March 15, 2018, and although he was practicing with the team, he wasn’t quite ready to play in games yet. His complete return to basketball occurred this summer as he joined the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2018 NBA Summer League.
Coming off injury, he was both anxious and excited to see how his body would react and perform during a game, as it was much different for him than team practices and individual workouts. He said he’s “truly grateful” for the opportunity the Sixers gave him to get back on the floor, and it was “a great experience.” He said the main thing that he learned this summer is patience.
“As corny as this may sound, you really have to trust the process,” Walker said.
Now that Summer League is over, Walker is back home in the Dallas area. While he’s continuing to work on his own game, he’s also playing a big part in developing the future talent of women’s basketball as the coach of the No. 20 ranked 2021 AAU girls team in the country, the DC Queens Platinum-Wtx. It’s his third season coaching, and he said he couldn’t be more excited. He explained that it’s live season right now, which means a lot of college coaches are watching and looking to hand out scholarships. He calls it “the most wonderful time of the year.”
As far as his future goals, Walker said he can sum them up in three words: “to be great.”