Julianna Walker Ends High School Basketball Career

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Annie Wright Sr. Julianna Walker celebrates with her teammate following the Gators’ 82-35 victory over Cascade Christian in the Nisqually 1A League Title game at Annie Wright High School in Tacoma, Wash. On Friday, June 18, 2021.

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One of the most prolific goal scorers in Washington state high school basketball history has officially ended her career. Annie Wright’s Julianna Walker was emotional after leaving the field for the last time. The Gators defeated Cascade Christian, 82-35, to claim the Nisqually Class 1A League crown. She felt mixed emotions.

“Happy, sad,” she said. “A lot of sadness. I didn’t expect it to be like this, but I really care about these girls like little sisters. It will be sad.

Walker, a Syracuse women’s basketball signatory, scored 28 points in Annie Wright’s victory, ending her career with 2,834 points. That puts her third on the state’s all-time scoring list, behind Cashmere’s Hailey Van Lith, who set the record last year with 2,992 points, and Davenport’s Jennifer Stinson, who scored 2,881 points from 1991 to 1995.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced all kinds of changes in high school sport over the past year. No state tournaments were held in the 2020-21 school year, and most of the state’s leagues have switched to a league-only season, having to pack matches within a shorter time frame. That meant Annie Wright had only played 10 games this season, about half of what they normally played. In a standard season, Walker would likely have broken the state’s scoring record.

It is a difficult pill for her to swallow, even though it is beyond her control.

“I tried (to accept it),” she said. “I definitely tried. It is really disappointing.

If there was an end to Walker’s high school career, it was just different, like many high school athletes over the past year and shift. She was not able to chase the scoring record. And she also hasn’t been able to compete in a 1A State Championship with her teammates (Annie Wright took fourth place last year in the State Tournament).

“(As a freshman) I remember wanting to go in and earn a state title,” Walker said. “We didn’t have an extra shot to do that. I’m so glad I arrived and hopefully left a legacy for young girls, even boys, to come in and get down to business, living up to the Annie Wright name.

Still, she will drop out of school as one of the best goalscorers the state has ever seen. How would coach Chris Spivey sum up his career?

“Spectacular, if needed,” he said. “As I always say about Julianna, as great as she is as a basketball player, she’s an even bigger person. It’s a joy to watch her play, a joy to coach her, a joy to hold her accountable at a high level – and you don’t even necessarily have to, because that’s what she brings to the table. She works extremely hard. It rubs off all over our program.

Walker, who isn’t the loudest voice in the room, gradually came out of her shell over the course of her high school career, becoming more comfortable speaking with the media and, as a teammate, becoming a more vocal leader.

“She assists, passes the ball and involves her teammates, even with (the scoring record) in mind,” Spivey said. “To me that says a lot about who she is. Sometimes the other aspects of his game are overshadowed because of his score. If you watch her play, she involves other people, she plays the right game 99.9% of the time. It’s just a joy.

And boy, could she score. She averaged 34.9 points for the Gators as a junior. This year, the 34.3. In a game against Charles Wright this spring, she scored 58 points.

“She just has a knack for putting the ball in the hole,” Spivey said. “Scoring a lot comes from repetition. She takes the time. It’s just a matter of muscle memory for her. I don’t know how many photos she puts up per day, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she takes thousands a day. It might be an astronomical number, but she gets to work.

She will travel to Syracuse next month. Walker said she hadn’t given much thought to her high school career. She just wanted to end the season undefeated, first.

“I was thinking, let’s just go get that last championship dub,” she said. “Think afterwards. It was a trick, that’s for sure.

This story was originally published June 18, 2021 9:47 pm.

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Jon Manley covers high school sports for The News Tribune. McClatchy President’s Award winner and Gonzaga University graduate, Manley has covered the South Sound sports scene since 2013. Born and raised in Tacoma.

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