COLUMBUS, Ohio -- At six-foot-nine and 330 pounds, Chase Walker has a frame that could understandably make people confuse him for a blue chip offensive lineman. Yet make no mistake, the big man is purely a hooper and he can ball. After a successful junior season in which he averaged a near double-double (17.8 points, 9.5 rebounds per game), won CCL Player of the Year and led St. Charles to a district final appearance, Walker has emerged as one of the best post players in the state and Central Ohio's most intriguing prospect.
While the intrigue of his ability and ceiling is still strong, Walker put an end to his recruitment when he committed to Illinois State on July 2nd, as he became the second recruit for first year head coach and former Ohio State assistant, Ryan Pedon. Walker selected the Redbirds over offers from Toledo, Liberty, Charleston and Stony Brook.
In a recent interview with 270 Hoops, we chatted with Walker on his commitment and goals for his senior season with the Cardinals.
270 Hoops: What ultimately led to your decision to commit to Illinois State?
Chase Walker: To start, they actually weren't in the picture. I was down to Toledo and Liberty, but (the Illinois State coaching staff) wanted me to come on a visit. I originally didn't think too much of it and that my mind wasn't going to be changed. But when I got there, the campus was beautiful. Then coach Pedon and (assistant coach) Offutt, they are great people. Coach Pedon said he had all these plans for me and the eye contact he made with me, I believed what he had to say. So I was like "yeah, this is where I want to be."
Coach Offutt was hired by Illinois State back in late March. He was previously at Toledo and offered you after your performance versus Gahanna in the district final. How far back does your relationship with him go?
I started a relationship with him sophomore year. The beginning of that year, I was 370 pounds. You can't play at the college level at that size. But yet he was still contacting me and had a belief in me. Now, his belief is that I can be dominant in the Missouri Valley Conference.
How is your relationship with coach Pedon? How long have you known him?
He's a super competitive and funny guy, but a great guy. Everything he said, I believed it. I couldn't tell you why, but I just did. I think it was the eye contact and how passionate he was.
How do they plan to utilize you?
They claimed to utilize me like Kaleb Wesson (who Pedon coached at Ohio State from 2017-2020). They put together PowerPoints which featured a lot of clips of Wesson and EJ Liddell and how they ran the offense through them. They would show me clips of Wesson defensively his freshman and sophomore year of college and then compared it with clips of my defense from last season and it was really similar.
I think there's a legitimate comparison between you and Wesson when you factor in size and touch, especially when Wesson was at Westerville South. Would you agree?
When Kaleb put up almost 50 points against Upper Arlington (in 2017), that's when I started to follow him. I would watch highlights and noticed how he got better each year, such as how he improved his three-point shooting and got his weight down. The jumps he made in his game was amazing to me. I think I'm better than Kaleb, though (laughs).
Chase, along with his mother Angela Thorn and sister Kyria Walker, pose with the Illinois State staff on his recent visit (photo provided by Chase Walker)
I noticed in your commitment graphic, you included your mother and sister. How important and influential have they been in this process for you?
They've been real supportive of me throughout the entire process. My dad, Charles Walker, as well. He couldn't make the visit, but we FaceTimed him. Just to lean on them and how they felt, talking through all the pros and cons of each college, it was important for me to bring them on the visit, so they can get a feel for the college too. After I committed, my mom texted coach Offutt and said "I'm giving my baby away to you, you better take care of him."
The drive from Columbus to Illinois State is about five and a half hours. Did you want to play somewhat close to home?
I actually wanted to get as far away from my parents as possible (laughs). I'm serious though, it's about getting a certain amount of freedom before the real world hits. College time is for me, to become my own man. But it's still really good for them to come to my games, because they have not missed many games in my career.
Chase had his older sister, Kyria, get in on the photo shoot fun during his visit (photo provided by Chase Walker)
When did you know you had the ability to become a Division I college basketball player?
Since I was born (laughs). I'm just playing. But for real, probably the beginning of my freshman year. There were a lot of future college players at St. Charles during that time, guys like Jared Frey, Josh Whiteside, Victor Searls, Doogie James. In practice, I would compete well with these guys, so I knew I could play at the next level too.
St. Charles is known for its high standard for academics. How prepared do you feel, academically?
When I chose to attend St. Charles, and knowing its academic reputation, I just know the basketball will stop dribbling someday. So knowing that whatever I choose to do beyond sports, that I can go back to my education. It was important to me and my mom. I want to major in business and the business school at Illinois State really caught my eye.
Did you have any doubts that you would be able to maintain your grades at St. Charles?
Oh yessir, for sure. I had my doubts initially and I would see some of my teammates leave and I'm wondering if I should leave too. But big ups to my mom and dad, they would say "I ain't raise no quitter."
St. Charles is really hard, though. I'll tell you a story. Athletes, we get our grade cards every two weeks. So freshman year, after the first two weeks, my grade card came out and I had a 0.0 GPA. I'm like "oh my God, this is an eye opener, this is shocking." But I finished the year with a 3.1, so it's safe to say I made my improvements.
But I was really motivated to stay, because when you come out of St. Charles, it can prepare you for life and a future job. There are a lot of St. Charles graduates that own businesses and when they see that I went there, it can help. And then once a lot of the other players transferred out, I knew I would get the ball a lot more (laughs).
Let's focus on your senior season now. What goals do you have?
To get to the state championship. I know a lot of people won't believe that, but I don't care. It's St. Charles versus the world. Then personally, to become a 1,000 point scorer and I think I'm close to 500 rebounds. The rest will fall in line.
What areas of your game do you want to improve?
My conditioning, I want to get my weight down. I also want to get more comfortable with the three-pointer and shoot at a higher percentage as well as become a better defender.
How has the team looked this off-season? Who are some teammates we should keep an eye on?
Zach Auletta, Max Colucy, John Levy. We feel good, we feel like we have an actual chance to make it out of the Columbus region. As long as we keep working, the only people who can stop us, is us.