Jonesboro rising sophomore James "M.J." Walker has been splitting his summer time between AAU basketball and football conditioning workouts. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
James “M.J.” Walker spent the better part of Monday morning going through defensive back drills with the Jonesboro Cardinals football team.
The rest of the week, the talented rising sophomore was in Philadelphia with his Atlanta Xpress AAU teammates at the Reebok Breakout Classic. As the Jonesboro football team participates in the Georgia Qualifier for the National Select 7-on-7 Championship to earn a trip to the national championship, Walker is many miles away.
Such has been the life of Walker since committing to play both sports this spring for Jonesboro.
Neither Walker’s AAU coach or Jonesboro football coach Tim Floyd is complaining about splitting time with one of the most talented athletes in the state.
“We understand about his talent, and his love for basketball,” Floyd said. “Yes, we would love to have him out full-time for football, but at the same time we know the type of athlete that he is. M.J. is such a smart kid, that he is learning fast. We would like to get him a few more reps in practice.”
Walker is rated the No. 10 basketball prospect in the country by Scout.com, an online recruiting service. This past winter, the 6-foot-4 rising sophomore helped lead Jonesboro to the Class AAAA basketball championship.
He could be the starting safety for the Cardinals football team in addition to seeing plenty of time at the wide receiver position.
“I have a lot of stuff going on in July,” Walker said. “I’m going to try and do as much as I can. I don’t take any of this for granted. It is a blessing to be able to do both sports.”
And even more so to be a standout in both.
Walker has football offers from Clemson and North Carolina State, which he received during the May evaluation period. When he suits up this season for the Cardinals, it will be the first time in a helmet and shoulder pads since playing quarterback for Rex Mill Middle School during the 2011 season.
He only played basketball for Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy during the 2011-12 school year. As a freshman last school year, Walker only played basketball after being injured during the summer competing in basketball.
It is definitely not uncommon for players to play to multiple sports in high school, but Walker is classified as an elite basketball player. He was one of only five first-team Maxpreps All-Americans in basketball.
“He is doing good so far in managing his time,” Floyd said. “It will be a matter of the coaches working together to make sure that he stays on pace. So far, there hasn’t been any major conflicts.”