EDMONDS — Zach Walton’s goal when he came to play for the Edmonds Community College men’s basketball team was to use his time with the Tritons as a stepping stone to the NCAA Division I level.
Walton is getting his chance at the highest level of collegiate basketball after signing a letter of intent last week with Drexel University.
“I’m honestly just really excited to get started,” Walton said. “I’ve wanted to play D-I my whole life, and now I get to, so I’m excited to get the whole thing going.”
Walton, a 6-foot-6 sophomore forward from Morton, was one of the top players in the Northwest Athletic Conference this season. He averaged 20.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Tritons, and made 54.7 percent of his field-goal attempts, including 41.8 percent from 3-point range.
Walton said his decision came down to a choice between Drexel, which is located in Philadelphia and is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, and the University of Idaho. His primary contact at Drexel was Dragons assistant coach Paul Fortier, who was both a player and an assistant coach at the University of Washington. This past season Drexel was 6-12 in conference play and 13-20 overall.
“I really believe in the coaching staff there, and I loved the city when I visited,” Walton said about choosing Drexel. “I think I can be real successful there, they have a good thing going for them.
“I really liked the facilities they had, I liked the campus and where it was,” added Walton, who visited Drexel three weeks ago. “What really sold me was the coaches and everybody. They seemed to have a lot of faith in me and what I could bring to them.”
Walton is the third player to advance from Edmonds to an NCAA Division I college in the six years Kyle Gray has been the Tritons’ head coach. Shaquielle McKissic transferred from Edmonds to Arizona State in 2013, and Glacier Peak High School graduate Payton Pervier moved first from Edmonds to Dodge City Community College in Kansas in 2014, then to Old Dominion in 2015.
“I’m just really happy for him,” Gray said of Walton. “I think he’s come in and really worked hard, trusted in our plan to help him, and he executed it over the last few years. This was his goal from the beginning, he wanted to reach it, and now he’s done it. We’re really excited for him.”
Walton has spent three years in Edmonds. He arrived in 2015 and had a promising freshman campaign, being named the North Region Freshman of the Year. He was primed for a big sophomore season in 2016-17, but a knee injury forced him to miss all but four games. He returned to full health this season to help lead the Tritons to a 20-10 record and an appearance in the NWAC Championships, and he was named first-team All-North Region.
He’s hoping he can bring the same all-court game he displayed at Edmonds to the Dragons.
“They haven’t promised me anything, I have to work for it and play hard every day for it,” Walton said. “They just want me to go in there and play my game, the game that got me to this point.
“I think playing at Edmonds matured me a lot, both on and off the court — especially off the court,” Walton added. “I came from a small town, so coming to the city I needed to mature more, do well at school, and coach Gray helped me with that. I got stronger and faster and a lot smarter on the court. It prepared me pretty well. I think I’m ready for it.”