Harding High boys basketball coach Walt Aikens Sr. is a little lonely these days. His best friend, son Walt Jr., is up at Illinois getting ready for football season.
"It was like somebody died around here when he left," Aikens Sr. said. "When I was cutting grass in the front yard. He was doing the back. When I was in the garage working out, I'd call him to come with me. We were always together."
Last year, "Little Walt" was a three-sport star at Harding who enjoyed one of the best seasons in Mecklenburg County sports history. He was named conference player of the year in football, basketball and track. He had Division I college offers in each sport, ultimately choosing football and Illinois.
"Little Walt," who won the state track long jump with a leap of nearly 24 feet, reports he's already seven pounds heavier than his prep playing weight of 195 pounds. Little Walt is 6-2 with 4.4 second speed. He also called home last week to report that he's been digitized into the new EA Sports NCAA Football 10 game.
Aikens is seen as No. 23 for Illinois. "He made sure to call me," Aikens Sr. said. "But several other people beat him to it. They called and said, 'We're playing with your son now.' I didn't even play the game before. Guess I have to go get one now."