Jonesboro’s M.J. Walker spurns Tech, choosing Florida State

Jonesboro High guard M.J. Walker was named a McDonald’s All-American this past season. (USA Basketball)

Jonesboro High guard M.J. Walker was named a McDonald’s All-American this past season. (USA Basketball)

Jonesboro High guard M.J. Walker will not be a Yellow Jacket. The McDonald’s All-American announced Wednesday morning his commitment to Florida State. Georgia Tech had been one of five schools that Walker was considering, along with Florida State, Virginia Tech, Ohio State and UCLA.

Walker had the potential to instantly make the Jackets a more competitive team going into the 2017-18 season. With the ability to drive to the basket as well as a soft touch from the perimeter, Walker was ranked the No. 25 player in the senior class by ESPN. Walker might have fit in well with a team thirsting for scoring punch, particularly from the outside. He would have been the first McDonald’s All-American to play for Tech since Derrick Favors in the 2009-10 season.

However, coach Josh Pastner will now instead see him annually in ACC play. For Pastner, it completed a strikeout of the highest-ranked talent in Georgia in a class that was particularly fertile. Hired in April 2016, Pastner scrambled to get into contention for five players from metro Atlanta in ESPN’s top 40. Tech was among the final options for each, but the destination for none — Pace Academy’s Wendell Carter went to Duke, Pebblebrook High’s Collin Sexton opted for Alabama, Norcross High’s Rayshaun Hammonds selected Georgia, Wheeler High’s Jordan Tucker also chose Duke and Walker made his selection Wednesday.

It's another win for the Seminoles and recruiter Charlton Young in Atlanta — Toney Douglas, Malik Beasley are among the local prospects to play in Tallahassee, Fla.

Pastner has long contended that Tech’s chances to land top players will improve with the 2018 and 2019 classes, as he and his staff will have had more time to build relationships with those prospects.

Walker, who is to graduate Thursday, will bring an impressive résumé to Florida State. Beyond the McDonald’s All-American honor, Walker was selected last summer to play for the U.S. U-18 national team, which competed in the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship in Chile. He also was the AJC’s Class AAAAAA player of the year and named to the USA Today All-USA second-team in 2016. Jonesboro won the Class AAAA state title in his sophomore year and was runner-up in his junior season.