Goals beyond basketball: K.J. Walton shares his perspective of being a sixth-year senior and plans after graduation.

Redshirt Junior K.J. Walton shoots a free throw at John E. Worthen Arena, Feb. 23, 2019. Ball State fell to Central Michigan 64-57. Jacob Haberstroh,DN.
Redshirt Junior K.J. Walton shoots a free throw at John E. Worthen Arena, Feb. 23, 2019. Ball State fell to Central Michigan 64-57. Jacob Haberstroh,DN.

K.J. Walton wanted to do something outside of the box. 

The sixth-year senior has been in college for more than half a decade, and basketball is all he has known his whole life. For Walton, something new was necessary.

Real estate was that something, as Walton said he was always intrigued by real estate shows as a kid. Now, he wants to make a living out of it. 

“Coach [Jason Grunkemeyer] actually set me up with somebody that goes to Ball State that is in real estate right now,” Walton said. “I just picked his brain a lot, and it was really interesting. I have always been a fan of real estate. I would watch shows on it, and it is something I am for sure going to get into after I graduate.”

Having an interest in both basketball and real estate from a young age, Walton has found parallels between the two regarding workflow and the time it takes to truly master the craft.

“[Real estate] is kind of like basketball in a sense,” Walton said. “When you get into it, it isn’t just a quick payday. You have to really take your time and learn. You have to really grind because you won’t be a millionaire overnight. You have to work, and work and work. I think that aspect will help me be a better person.”

As a sixth-year student, Walton is taking fewer credit hours, which gives him a lot of free time to focus on other responsibilities outside of school. While he has more time to practice his craft on the court, he is looking for opportunities to better prepare himself for the real estate business.

“This is for sure the year where I have been the least busy,” Walton said. “I get to talk to a lot of different people, and I’ll get to job-shadow somebody. I get more time to just read up on different stuff and don’t have to cram all of these tests.”

While Walton continues to enjoy college life, there is still a lot for him to work toward and plenty of goals he wants to achieve. Not only does Walton want to get into real estate, but he also wants to play professional basketball. 

“He gets to enjoy the experience,” Ball State Men’s Basketball head coach James Whitford said. “K.J., who wants [to play professionally], gets another year to develop.”

From a basketball perspective, playing at the collegiate level for so long has given Walton the opportunity to help younger players. Walton played two seasons at the University of Missouri before transferring to Ball State. He has played in 105 career games and has started 59 of them. Seeing the game from multiple perspectives has provided him the wisdom he can share with his teammates.

“Being a sixth-year senior gives me the ability to be a great leader,” Walton said. “I’ve been around the block so many times, and have been to different schools and have seen different players and different systems.”

Redshirt senior forward Brachen Hazen said his teammates listen to Walton. Hazen came to Ball State in 2017 — the same year as Walton — and they redshirted together. Hazen described his relationship with Walton as “easy.”

“We would dominate in some practices, and it is just an easy relationship,” Hazen said. “We talk to each other on the court, joke around and encourage each other.”

Walton said being personable and easygoing can also help his younger teammates, and he tries to set a good example for them every day.

“Being the oldest guy, you for sure have to lead by example,” Walton said. “There are freshmen and sophomores who look at you. That is the biggest thing and just leaving an impression on them.”

Not only has this much time in college given Walton wisdom, but it has helped him mentally. He said there have been times where he has been burned out, but he knows he still has a responsibility as a crucial piece to his team.

In Ball State’s first game of the 2020-21 season against Northern Kentucky Nov. 25, Walton put up a career-high 28 points and added 11 rebounds. He echoed everything he talked about with his performance as far as being mentally locked in and focused.

“When you have done something for so long, you kind of get tired of it,” Walton said. “It helps my mental capacity to be able to keep working and keep striving for our goals.”   

Walton’s goals are large. Not only is he working toward professions with basketball and real estate, but he is trying to lead his team to a Mid-American Conference Championship and, eventually, the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s been a weird year with everything going on,” Walton said. “It has been crazy, so if we get there, I won’t be surprised.”

Whitford said he is proud of who Walton is and believes he embodies everything he would want in both a player and a person.

“K.J. is often quiet as a mouse,” Whitford said, “but he models the right behavior every day. He is a total team player, he has a great work ethic, he is a great representative of his family, our program, and he is a guy that I really admire.”

Contact Ian Hansen with comments at imhansen@bsu.edu or on Twitter @ianh_2.

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