EDMOND — Lester Turner knew his daughter was bound for hardwood glory when she was a toddler.
He watched in amazement as 3-year old Courtney Walker held a consistent, rhythmic dribble with one hand.
“Up-and-down; up-and-down,” Turner said. “It was an amazing feat for a 3-year-old.”
Courtney Walker's mother, however, thought their daughter's future was in softball. She was part of All-Star teams and demonstrated excellence on the diamond, too, as a youngster.
“I knew she could definitely have a future in softball,” Tonda Walker said. “But her dad seems to have won this one.”
For the second year in a row, Courtney Walker is The Oklahoman's Super 5 Player of the Year after leading Edmond Santa Fe to a Class 6A state championship. Now, she'll move on to play in college at Texas A&M, where she believes she'll have an opportunity to play as a true freshman.
How different things might be had she followed her mother's advice and stuck with softball.
“I just always liked basketball better,” Courtney Walker said. “I really wanted to just focus on one of them in high school, and I chose basketball because I just enjoyed it better.”
Walker visits her dad every summer in Atlanta, where he now lives, and he comes to Oklahoma for some games and special occasions.
On those visits to Atlanta, the father and daughter would often play 1-on-1 in the driveway. It was in one of these games that Turner found out just how big a competitor his daughter was.
“I was raised in a family where I never beat my dad,” Turner said. “So she is playing hard, and when she realized I was probably going to win, she started doing everything she could. Climbing on my back, everything.
“She threw this major tantrum, running down the street. I just had to sit her down and say, ‘Baby, you're not supposed to be able to beat me.'”
Around Courtney Walker's junior year of high school, though, Turner decided to play on the same team with his daughter in pickup games.
“I always said that when I felt like she could beat me, I'd stop playing her,” Turner said with a laugh. “But I think I might could still take her.”
Courtney Walker disagrees, “He's too slow for me.”
Either way, the drive Turner sees from his daughter is what he thinks makes her so successful.
“When her mind is set on something, she doesn't take her mind off of it,” Turner said. “She works so hard. I think a lot of people don't realize how much work she puts into basketball.”
Her determination was put on full display at the Class 6A state tournament last month. The Wolves faced a double-digit deficit to Midwest City entering the fourth quarter, but Walker took the game over, scoring 11 of her 23 points in the fourth.
In a title-game tilt with rival Edmond Memorial, it was Walker who came through with an incredible block of a potential game-winner with seconds remaining.
“I'm still finding things that Courtney does that are surprising to me,” Tonda Walker said. “That block at state ... it just left me speechless, and I've watched that little girl play since she was 3.
“She brings out things in her game that I didn't know were there every time I watch her play.”
And even though she would've loved to have seen Courtney take up softball, which Tonda Walker played, she thinks her daughter probably made the right call.
Turner remembers one of Courtney's first moments on a basketball court.
He had just wrapped up his college basketball career at Central Oklahoma and had dreams of playing overseas.
So when he would go to the UCO gym to work out alone, he'd bring Courtney and put her in a baby walker.
After Turner worked on some moves and made a shot at one end, he'd dribble to the other end and repeat over and over again.
And following him, the whole length of the court in her baby walker, was 8 or 9-month-old Courtney Walker.
“She would go all the way from baseline to baseline,” Turner said. “I was like, ‘Wow.'”
Courtney Walker hasn't stopped wowing her parents since.