By Sam Draut–
The scoring column has stayed relatively consistent game after game as Louisville rides 15 consecutive wins into Sunday’s contest against third-ranked Notre Dame. Myisha Hines-Allen, Mariya Moore and Asia Durr are the three leading scorers for the team tied atop the ACC at 10-0. As consistent of contributions Hines-Allen, Moore and Durr have provided during Louisville’s winning streak, an older member of the young roster has been quietly steady as well.
Coach Jeff Walz said Cortnee Walton is “one of the best rebounders he has ever coached.”
Thus far in ACC play, the redshirt-junior has been the best rebounder for the 13th-ranked team in the country. Walton is averaging 7.8 rebounds through 10 games in the ACC.
She doesn’t score as much as Louisville’s other standout performers, nor does Walton look to, but she provides an equally important role.
“I know that rebounding is a huge part of our success and that’s why I rebound as hard as I do,” Walton said. “We need those second and third chances, and then we need to stop those opportunities for the opposing team. I’m trying to do what I need to do to help the team win.”
Walz says most players have a passion for scoring, but Walton is different.
“She has a passion for rebounding. It is hard to teach,” Walz said. “Most kids have a passion for wanting the ball in their hands. It is hard to find the ones willing to do the dirty work.”
The 6-foot-3 forward goes after rebounds a little differently than most players are taught. Instead of boxing out the nearest player and battling for the board, Walton tries to work near the middle of the lane untouched. She reads the shot off the rim and follows the ball.
“You tell other players to box out because they can’t necessarily tell if the shot is short, left or right,” Walz said. “For someone like Cortnee, I don’t worry about her boxing out. She goes and gets the ball. There might be a few that she misses because she doesn’t box out, but a majority of the time she is going to end up getting the board.”
Comparing Walton to former Cardinals Angel McCoughtry and Candyce Bingham, Walz said Walton seeks the basketball and has the ability to go get it.
Walton calls her ability to read the ball off the rim her “sixth-sense.”
“I had it in high school,” Walton said. “I have gotten better as the years have gone on.”
After only playing four games and then redshirting last season because of a broken toe, Walton believes her improved conditioning has made her a better rebounder.
“I’m going after the ball whenever everyone else is tired,” Walton said.
Before Louisville started on its win-streak that has lasted nearly two months, the roster filled with seven newcomers struggled to come together. A team with five freshmen and two transfers started 1-4, but Walton helped to turn the inexperienced group around.
“I tried to get everyone focus,” Walton said.
As the most experienced member on the roster, Walton said once individuals learned their specific roles, the team started to play well. The only remaining member on Louisville’s National Championship runner-up team in 2013, Walton understands what it takes to win.
“She leads by example, I don’t ever have to question her effort or work ethic, she goes and gets it done. That is a tribute to her,” Walz said. “When you are a junior grade wise, a senior year wise, she has been here for four years, she knows what to do, she goes out and does it. As a coach, you don’t want to have to get your upperclassmen to work out. She is one I never have to question if she going to work hard.”