Marcella Walker wanted to be closer to her daughter, Marcedes, a standout on the Pitt women's basketball team.
Marcella Walker also wanted a change of surroundings for her second daughter, Markel.
So the Walkers moved from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh this summer, and the dominos started to fall. The Walkers move, the family bonds ... and Western Pennsylvania gets a top-notch high school basketball player.
The family settled in Oakland, not far from the Pitt campus, and Markel Walker enrolled at Schenley High School. Markel Walker stands 6 feet 1 inch, the size of most centers in girls' high school basketball. But she plays point guard and exhibits talent that has her ranked among the top 20 juniors in the country by at least one high school scouting service.
She is one of the highest-rated players in Western Pennsylvania the past few years. She is averaging 15.9 points a game, excellent for someone who says she'd much rather make a nice pass and see someone else score. She has helped Schenley to a 13-3 record and also made the academic honor roll.
Ms. Walker already has accepted a scholarship to Pitt. This should tell you about her talent: Maryland, the No. 4-ranked team in the country, was one of the teams that also had offered a scholarship.
Marcedes Walker comes to many of her sister's games, and vice versa. They root for each other.
"She's my best friend," Markel Walker said.
And they push each other.
"I try to give her pointers about her game, just like she tries to give me some," Marcedes Walker said.
Marcedes Walker is built much differently than her sister and plays a different style. The collegian is a powerfully built 6-3 senior who plays under the basket and is averaging 14.3 points and 10.4 rebounds a game for a nationally ranked Pitt team that has a 13-3 record.
And mom? Every time she turns around, she's watching one of her daughters star on the basketball court. She brought her fourth-grade son, Marquise, with her, too.
"Me being a single parent, I've had some hardships," said Marcella Walker, 43. "I've had some personal struggles, but basically everything has worked out. I'm glad we made the change to come here. It's been for the better."
Her other daughter, Marshay, still lives in Philadelphia with Marcella's mother.
"My mom had some problems in the past and my grandma had to raise us a lot," Marcedes Walker said. "But we've moved up here and my mom got herself back on track. Collectively, my whole family is doing well."
Marcella Walker, who is unemployed but said she is looking for a job here, grew up in Philadelphia and played at University City High School, where Marcedes Walker played. Markel Walker played her freshman year at Girard College, a private boarding school in Philadelphia, and then University City as a sophomore. The family lived in West Philadelphia.
"A tough neighborhood, but not as bad as others," Marcella Walker said.
But Marcella Walker didn't feel like Markel was focusing enough on academics. Mom didn't like some of the company her daughter kept. Plus, her oldest daughter missed home.
"One of the reasons we came up here [to Pittsburgh] was because Marcedes was getting homesick," Marcella Walker said. "Plus, I felt like Markel needed a change of scenery. There is not as much going on up here. She's able to keep better focus. ... I enjoy it here. There is not as much riff-raff and that's good."
Marcedes Walker lives on campus but also spends some nights with her family.
Markel Walker classified Pittsburgh as "OK." She never heard of Schenley until a few days before enrolling for the fall semester. Besides taking classes in the day, she also takes a few night classes.
"It's a lot more quiet here, but that's OK because that's what I need to focus," the high schooler said.
Markel Walker scored her 1,000th career point in a victory Tuesday against Carrick. She has hopes of helping Schenley win a City League championship and hopes of someday making an impact at Pitt, just like her sister, whose eligibility is finished after this season.
"A lot of people try to compare me with [Marcedes]," Markel Walker said. "She always says it doesn't matter. She never puts herself ahead of me, and I don't put myself ahead of her."
Mom might have put it best.
"There was a point in time where Markel wasn't too comfortable following in Marcedes' footsteps," Marcella said. "But as Markel has gotten older and matured, she realizes Marcedes is just a guide for her."
Contact Mike White at 412-263-1975 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .