When 12-year-old Demetrius Walker is compared to Ohio prep senior LeBron James, his basketball coach, Joe Keller, has reason to weigh in.

Keller thinks Walker will be better.

'Of all the guys I've coached, he's the best at this age,' says Keller, who says he's coached 21 players who have made it to the NBA, including Tyson Chandler, the No. 2 draft pick in 2001.

Walker, 6-2, says he talks with someone from Sports Illustrated virtually every day as part of a story, and perhaps a book, chronicling his season with the Inland Stars, who have won national championships as fourth- and fifth-graders. Photographers from ESPN and Fox Sports West have followed the team, Keller says.

Walker, who already can dunk, played at a level significantly above the other sixth-graders he was pitted against during the Damon Stoudamire Presidents Day tournament at Reynolds Middle School last week. His team, based in Fontana, Calif., won its first three games by 103, 96 and 70 points and easily captured the sixth-grade bracket.

Walker, who seems at ease talking about the media attention, is flattered to be mentioned in the same breath with James.

'I'm watching what he does pretty closely,' Walker says. 'I'm learning how to handle things so I'll be more prepared if those things happen to me.'

Walker wants to attend Oak Hill Academy and definitely sees himself in the NBA.

'I'd head there right out of high school if I could,' he says. 'I'd like to have enough money so my mom could stop working two jobs.'

Ñ Cliff Pfenning

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