Liam Walker understands that living in a small town and attending a small high school has its ups and downs. For an athlete like Walker, who plays golf, basketball and baseball for Southold High School, there is always the danger of being overlooked.
But that was not the case on Sunday when the senior from tiny Southold made a big splash, being named the male recipient of the 15th annual Butch Dellecave Award during a breakfast in Patchogue. The female winner, Center Moriches senior Diana Monaco, also comes from a small school.
“I was shocked, completely surprised,” said Walker, who just the day before won a regional championship along with his teammates on Southold’s baseball team. “It’s a huge honor. I was really honored and grateful.”
Walker wasn’t the only one taken aback. Southold’s athletic director, Mike Brostowski, had figured the award would go to someone from a bigger school.
“I think everyone who knows him is happy for him,” said Brostowski. He added, “I was excited for him because he was deserving of it.”
The award recognizes the top male and female student-athletes in Suffolk County for outstanding achievement in athletics, academics and community service.
Just to be nominated for the award is an honor in itself. Walker was among five male finalists along with, interestingly enough, Ryan DiResta of Riverhead. Walker said he and DiResta had been friends since they went to the same preschool.
After he was announced as the winner, Walker said, “They had me do a little speech on the spot. I wasn’t ready for it, but I think I did a pretty good job.”
Walker’s all-around résumé is impressive. This past basketball season, he made the all-state fourth team in Class C. He has been selected an all-league baseball player.
Walker is a standout in the classroom, too, taking accelerated courses in algebra and earth science and advanced placement U.S. history. He said his grade-point average was 89.97 halfway through the academic year.
And that is not all for the busy Walker. He is in the school band, plays in a jazz ensemble, does volunteer work for the Southold Historical Society and helps out at a basketball camp, instructing young players.
Walker will attend the University of Hartford (Conn.), where he said he may try out for the school’s basketball team as a walk-on.
Walker said his parents, Brian and Deanna, had always encouraged him to be the best academic student he could be before being the best athlete. “They made sure that I put my grades first and I think that made a big impact on me,” he said.
Brostowski believes Walker is the first Southold student-athlete to receive the prestigious honor. “I feel like it’s a tremendous accomplishment, especially [for] somebody from a small school,” Brostowski said. “His hard work, dedication, it pays off.”
Small school indeed. Walker will be part of a graduating class of only 73 students.
Walker said coming from a small community may have actually given him an advantage in the sense that he received support from friends and neighbors. “Everyone is very closeknit,” he said. “During good times, everyone is together. It’s a great feeling when you have the whole town behind you.”