Walton’s experience and maturity lead team

By on November 13, 2015

By Sam Draut–

“She is one of the best rebounders that I have coached, relentless and always going after the ball.”

This is head coach Jeff Walz describing forward Cortnee Walton.

And after losing three of his top five rebounders from last season, Walz will need Walton’s abilities on full force this year.

“She’s going to help us in that area, especially with the losses we had with Shawnta’ (Dyer) and Sarah (Hammond), who were very good rebounders in the post positions,” Walz said.

The 6-foot-3 junior suffered a broken toe before the start of the 2014-15 season, but recovered enough to return to play in four games in December and early January before experiencing discomfort and deciding to medically redshirt the remainder of the season.

Walton desperately worked back to playing strength for a Dec. 18 road matchup against Grand Canyon, which is 25 miles from her hometown of Surprise, Arizona.

“It took a while because I broke it all the way through where it wasn’t holding on to anything,” Walton said. “I was rushing it back because Coach Walz had worked really hard to get me a game in Arizona, and I didn’t want to miss that.”

In front of a few hundred friends and family members, Walton started and played 17 minutes, scoring four points and pulling down five rebounds before exiting.

She added six points and three rebounds in Louisville’s road victory over Pittsburgh two weeks later, but the Jan. 4 contest ended up being her final game of the season.

“Sitting out last year was really hard because I obviously wanted to play,” Walton said. “It was just too hard because my toe wasn’t healed after every game, and I was in a lot pain. My whole foot would swell up.  After a while I would say my toe wasn’t fully healed until late March or early April so it took a really long time.”

Although the injury and recovery was difficult, Walton said it ended up being a blessing in disguise because she was able to graduate this past May and begin to work on her Master’s program, which she plans to finish by the time she leaves Louisville.

Along with her educational benefits of sticking around for another year, Walton gets to enjoy being a Louisville basketball player for another two seasons.

“I’m really excited to be able to play with these girls for two more years,” Walton said. “They are all really great.”

Even though Walton redshirted last year, she doesn’t enter the 2015-16 season as an unproven post player.

Walton played in 37 of the team’s 38 games her sophomore season as Louisville reached the Elite Eight and finished the year 33-5.

She pulled down 118 rebounds and played 12 minutes per game. Walton had five rebounds or more rebounds in nine games and scored 13 points in a non-conference game against Austin Peay. She nearly notched her first career double-double against Wright State, scoring nine points and adding 12 rebounds.

After getting a brief taste of the ACC last year, which is the third conference Walton has played in, she looks forward to the competition the conference offers.

“I’m really excited to play in the ACC. I played in four games last year, and those were all ACC teams, and those were really fun,” Walton said. “But being able to play Notre Dame, North Carolina and Florida State that’s going to be really exciting because I’m a competitor, and I live for playing on the highest level, and that is the highest level.”

Arriving on campus in 2012, Walton is the only player on the roster with more than one year of experience with Walz and Louisville basketball. Because of her three years of experience in a Cardinal uniform and exuding maturity, it was only natural for the eight newcomers to look to Walton as a leader.

“It’s been a challenge, but it’s been a challenge I’m really excited to embrace. All these girls are really great, and they’re really open to the things I have to say,” Walton said. “They realize that like I’m the only one who’s been here longer than a year and I know the system he best. So it’s a huge challenge because I don’t want us to go in the wrong direction.  And I feel like anything that goes wrong kind of falls on my shoulders. It’s a challenge I’m really excited to take on this year.”

While Walton said some of the team’s chemistry will fall upon Walz’s shoulders, she thinks the group has come together well to this point.

It is a new role for Walton with a new roster around her, but Walz has liked what he has seen from his fourth year junior forward.

“Cortnee Walton has done a great job,” Walz said.

Rebounding will be the focus for Walton as she returns to the court after waiting patiently for a year.

About Sam Draut

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