National Walkout Day: At NCAA Tournament, Miami Hurricanes have Parkland on their minds

Miami guard Lonnie Walker IV wears a “Praying for Stoneman Douglas,” T-shirt during warmups before the start of an NCAA college basketball game against Syracuse, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, in Coral Gables, Fla. Former Stoneman Douglas student Nikolas Cruz was accused of opening fire Feb. 14 at the Parkland school, killing 17 people. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

[Brown will be in uniform Thursday]
[A look at the state of Miami basketball]
[Loyola a trendy upset pick over UM]

DALLAS — At a press conference Wednesday in advance of their NCAA Tournament opening game, Miami players Lonnie Walker, Chris Lykes and Ja’Quan Newton were asked for their thoughts on gun control and the issue of gun violence.

The questions came as thousands of students across the country staged school walkouts, one month after Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.

National Walkout Day: Updates from Palm Beach County 

“It was definitely a difficult time for me because I have a couple of friends who had family and friends that went to that school,” Walker said. “Seeing the people upset and crying, it definitely impacts you in a personal way. Just knowing it can happen at any moment, you just being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that’s the end of your life.

“Most of those kids went to that school not expecting that to be their last day living. They went to that school to get educated, be knowledgeable and look forward to their future lives, so the fact that they got their lives taken away too quickly is very sad. This national walk, we have to take this seriously because Lord knows what could happen next. It’s all about how we want to make a change.”

Lykes, also a freshman, called gun violence “a national problem that we have,” he said. “It makes me understand that your life can be taken at any moment.  … I think we do definitely need to make this an important issue worldwide. We’ve got to do something about this. We need to continue our focus towards that.”

None of the three players who spoke Wednesday are from South Florida — Walker and Newton hail from the Philadelphia area, Lykes from D.C. — but they live and go to school  there.  Newton, a senior, recalled how Miami and Syracuse wore “Praying for Douglas” t-shirts before their Feb. 17 game, three days after the shooting.

“It was an hour away from us, so it impacted us a lot,” Newton said. “It’s just something that I think should be handled in a very, very calm way by the government.”

Miami (22-9), the No.  6 seed in the South region, faces No. 11 Loyola-Chicago (28-5) at approximately 3:10 p.m. Thursday (truTV).