Derec Link would have never guessed two years ago at the Walnut Grove Tournament, while he coached Fair Play, that he was coaching against his future players.
Link and Fair Play lost to Sparta in a consolation bracket contest. Kavan Walker was a freshman for Sparta at that time and he caught Link’s attention as a diminutive 5-foot-1 dynamo of a shooting guard.
Link also would have never guessed Walker suffers from Cystic fibrosis (CF) and diabetes.
“I didn’t know it when I coached against him,” Link said.
Since arriving at Sparta last year and learning of Walker’s battles with CF, Link’s appreciation for him has grown immeasurably.
“He fights through adversity every single day with what he has to go through,” Link said. “He’s not being a victim of his circumstance. For him to be able to play and perform like he does, he’s a special kid. I love him.”
Walker, who has grown over the past two years to 5-8, responded like a champ to post-season pressure Monday. He swished four 3-point goals in the first half and scored 15 points in Sparta’s 60-32 Class 3 District 11 first-round win versus Spokane.
He and the Trojans are back on the hardwood tonight at 7, as they host No. 1 seed Skyline in a semifinal.
Walker’s preparation for practices and games goes far beyond that of his teammates and opponents.
“I do what is called a smart-vest twice a day for 30 minutes each day,” Walker said. “I inhale breathing treatments and take probably 25-30 vitamins a day and have insulin injections and shots when I eat. Before I go to bed at night, I do a feeding bag to help get me extra calories. With CF, it’s hard to pack on weight.
“I have a CGN (continuous glucose monitor) that I can look up on my phone and it will tell me what my blood sugar level is,” he added. “It will alert me if it’s low or high. On game days, I’ve got to make sure that’s balanced out to where it’s supposed to be.”
Walker is disciplined enough in following his routine that he appears as energetic as any of his cohorts.
“Only once in a blue moon, I will notice my blood sugar level is high or low and I’m tired,” he added.
Walker has dealt with his conditions for as long as he can remember. He was diagnosed with CF when he was 5 years old and diabetes was added to his medical profile two years ago.
“I’m missing enzymes in my pancreas,” he said. “The enzymes in my pancreas don’t break down food right. That causes problems. And the mucus in my lungs is thicker and that can clog my longs and make it difficult for me to breathe.”
Walker is thankful not to have Type 1 Diabetes or Type 2 Diabetes.
“My blood sugar level (last fall) was running 600-700,” he said. “With Type One or Type Two, (patients) are not responsive at that level. With CF, my body still produces insulin, but not like it should.”
The drop in Walker’s blood sugar level did lead to him being hospitalized at the University of Missouri Hospitals in Columbia.
“It was just a couple weeks before practices started and my lung function numbers were way down, so they put me in the hospital for two weeks,” he said. “Coach checked on me every day, while they were running pre-season open gym and weight room (workouts) back here. After lying in my hospital bed for two weeks, I was dying to get back in the gym. It felt good to be back.”
Walker returned and was back to his usual hot-shooting self in no time.
“He has all that going on, but plays as hard as he can,” teammate Dexter Loveland said. “He’s a trooper.”