NBA legend Bill Walton visits basketball team

Senior wing Carrick Felix pauses to take a foul shot against USC on Jan. 24. (Photo by Sam Rosenbaum)

Senior wing Carrick Felix pauses to take a foul shot against USC on Jan. 24. (Photo by Sam Rosenbaum)

The ASU men’s basketball team got a special treat after Tuesday’s practice.

Just after the Sun Devils wrapped up preparing for Thursday’s contest against Cal, they sat in a room with Bill Walton. He talked to team for a little over an hour as part of his “Walton on Wheels” tour.

“He had teaching points,” senior wing Carrick Felix said. “There was a lot of learning points in there. He definitely a winner. He’s played on many championship teams and won many of championships. (He knows) what it takes to win: the will to win. It’s just amazing to have the opportunity to meet somebody like that.”

Walton did it all at UCLA under coach John Wooden.

He won the USBWA and Naismith College Player of the Year awards three straight seasons from 1972-75.

He was drafted No. 1 overall in the 1974 Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. In Portland, he won Most Valuable Player, an NBA championship and NBA Finals MVP from 1974-79. He battled through injuries during his entire career and retired in 1987.

While at UCLA, he was arrested at an anti-Vietnam War rally. That same passion for humanity hasn’t gone away with Walton, and he shared a message of hope and unity with the players.

“One of chasing your dreams and building your lives,” Walton said. “We are fighting some powerful forces that sell fear, that sell individualism, that sell greed, that sell selfishness, but we’re going to win. We’ve done this before. The beautiful thing is that the positive messages were delivered in terms of using this great facility, this great institution, Arizona State University, to come and be a part of something special.”

Walton spent time with junior center Jordan Bachynski and redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson individually after talking to the team.

“He’s a legend, especially guys that’s been around great players and seen guys come up through the ranks,” Carson said. “Getting advice from him is just a dream come true. … I was a kid in the candy shop.”

Carson said the advice Walton gave him was to stay in school as long as possible, market yourself outside of basketball and do your best inside of basketball.

“Basketball can take you to a lot of places outside of your sport,” Carson said. “That’s just great information, especially from a guy who played in the NBA, who’s now marketing himself as an older gentleman. It’s just a great influence.”

Walton enjoyed his time with Carson just as much as Carson did. Walton said he loves little, fast guys and called him a very energetic person.

“He’s so inspirational and so electric,” Walton said. “He’s just a ball of energy. He’s got his own universe surrounding around the center of Jahii Carson. Just to be able to spend time with such enthusiastic, such happy, visionary, dreaming young people. It’s really the best part of my life.”

Reach the reporter at mtesfats@asu.edu