COVINGTON, Ga. Although Jesse Walden’s basketball career at Eastside High has ended, he will retain the number 33 for his jersey number in college.
Walden made sure of that when he signed a letter of intent to play basketball for LaGrange College on Tuesday afternoon.
“You can’t replace 6-foot-10,” said Eastside boys basketball coach Brent Wren. “A 6-foot-10 (player) that wants to work hard, a 6-foot-10 (player) that is the first one there at practice and the last one to leave. We’ll miss that.
“He’s an awesome kid and we’re wishing him the best. He’s one of those guys that don’t get many points. He’s always putting himself in the position where he’s helping someone else to detour a shot or if someone gets beat he’s there to turn it around. He’s always giving of himself for the betterment of the team. It’s been great having him.”
During his four years with the Eagles, Walden helped Eastside (18-10, 9-3 in Region 4-AAAA) to a successful basketball season for his senior year that culminated with an appearance in the Class AAAA state playoffs.
In LaGrange, he’ll go to a NCAA Div. III school, which ended its 2016-17 hoops season with an 18-11 record overall, as well as an 8-6 mark in conference play.
Walden is happy that the coaching staff at LaGrange, in many ways, mirrors the coaching staff of Eastside. He is also happy that LaGrange has an engineering program that he can get into. He said he also likes that LaGrange is a small and family-like institution where he is not just a number — just like at Eastside.
“Well I’m pretty excited,” said Walden. “This is a great way to end the year. I’m happy to continue (basketball) for another four years.”
Walden has been playing basketball since he was five. He describes himself as big man with no footwork before he began as a freshman playing with his teammates and coaches, who he considers family.
Given his defensive focus, Walden believes he will have a ’99 percent chance of starting’ when he steps on the court as a freshman with the Panthers next season.
Walden contributed leadership and a willingness to sacrifice even his body at times to his Eastside team.
He recalled a particular game against Druid Hills from this past season as the highlight of his high school career.
Coming off of a broken foot, Walden did not spend much time on the court but in that game, he was able to step up defensively. He was able to get three charges, three blocks and four points. Eastside won that game against the Red Devils in overtime.
That’s why Walden’s high school coach is elated to see Walden get rewarded for his dedication.
“I’m so happy for him,” said Wren. “He’s a great kid.”