Making the jump: Varsity basketball player goes Division I

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By Brianna Fan, Staff Reporter

With the ball raised above his head, senior Michael Walz quickly draws three defenders during a Central League playoff game against Garnet Valley. This is the type of attention that Walz, a 6-foot-11-inch recruit to the University of Richmond’s Division I basketball program, attracts when he takes possession of the ball on the court.

Walz was introduced to competitive basketball during his freshman year when an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team, the Philly Pride Basketball Club, reached out to him to join the team because of his height. Through this experience, he extended his basketball playing to more than pure recreation. He later joined the Conestoga boys’ varsity team his sophomore year, spending most of his time cheering on his teammates from the sidelines instead of playing. The shortened season during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, provided him an opportunity to develop as a player.

“I would go to the city with my AAU coach and practice and workout two hours at a time, three times a week,” Walz said. “That’s where I took my biggest jump (not only) in terms of talent and skill set, but also my mindset.”

When the following season started, Walz had significantly improved and was the starting center. With this new role came an increase in playing time, which he has used to not only develop camaraderie with his teammates, but to also foster a team culture of motivation and reciprocity.

“Playing with some of my best friends on the court (is) pretty awesome,” Walz said. “They see that I really want to win, and they respond to it. It makes everyone better at the end of the day.”

Mike Troy, coach of the boys’ varsity team, has seen Walz continuously improve since his freshman year, culminating in an uptick this season in three major statistical categories: assists, rebounds and points per game.

“On the court, he’s always selfless. He always thinks to pass the ball to his teammates. When his teammates score a point—it’s just as a victory to him,” Troy said. 

Walz’ in-game performance, which earned first-team All Central League and All Main Line honors, generated offers from ten schools, including Penn State, Lehigh University and St. Joseph’s University. In addition, Troy reached out to University of Richmond, which subsequently made an offer to Walz. 

“Richmond is such a great community of coaches, of players. They’ve made me feel so welcomed,” Walz said.“I just know that sometimes you get that gut feeling. That was it. It’s the environment I want to be in.”  

In particular, it was the coaches’ efforts to support and communicate with Walz that ultimately motivated him to commit to Richmond. 

“The coaches were always there for me. They always texted me after my AAU games when no one else would,” Walz said. “It made me feel wanted.”


Brianna Fan can be reached at [email protected]