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Megan Walker uses her Team USA experience to prepare for UConn

WASHINGTON — The step to the next level can be a daunting one. But Megan Walker is prepared for the challenge.

On March 15, the Richmond area basketball star was at Verizon Center where she attended the Wizards game against the Mavericks. During a commercial break, she was introduced to the crowd and named the 2016-17 Gatorade National Player of the Year in girls basketball. Washington Mystics superstar Elena Delle Donne handed her the trophy.

Walker, who was surprised by Delle Donne’s gesture, said her experience playing on Team USA on the under-18 women’s team and winning a state championship to catapult herself to the next level at the University of Connecticut where she will play this fall.

This season, Walker averaged 25.9 points per game along with 7.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 3.2 steals as she led the Monacan Chiefs to their third consecutive 4A state championship and earned herself the Virginia player of the year award. With Team USA’s under-18 team, she averaged 9.6 points and 2.8 rebounds per game where she won a gold medal in the FIBA Americas U-18 tournament.

“It’s still surreal,” Walker said of her season and her transition to UConn. On top of her success with her own team, she and her team won a gold medal on the Olympic level and she was also named a McDonald’s All-American. And to cap it off, Walker scored 13 points in an 80-74 overtime win over the West in the McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago on March 26.

Delle Donne, who had been recognized as the National Player of the Year herself during her time playing high school ball in Delaware, said the award Walker had is the “best award you can get in high school sports.”

“I can’t wait to watch her future as she continues to move on to Connecticut,” Delle Donne said. “She’s killing it already. I can’t wait to watch her go forward.”

Walker said being able to be held to standards like she has and continue to produce the way she does is an honor. It isn’t all about basketball success, Walker said, but also what she does in the community and how she helps other people succeed around her. Her success is a reflection of that, she said.

There are things that she will have to adjust to, Walker said. Part of moving to the next level is being on your own for a certain period along with new standards and more accountability. But Walker said her experiences last summer have her prepared.

“Playing with Team USA opened my eyes to a lot of things,” Walker said. “Having workouts all day, playing against top competition. Not just in our country but in other countries as well. And then playing with top talent. It makes you work harder every day.”

Winning the state title still has not hit her yet, Megan said. Everything is moving fast, she said, but she is doing her best to take everything in and enjoy the moments that come with the success.

Sitting next to Elena Delle Donne and having her personally hand her the award as the Verizon Center watched was a good moment, she said. But overall, she said, she’s thankful to have such success.

“I’m just really thankful to be able to be in this situation. I’ve just gotta keep working and keep getting better,” Walker said.