When describing West Texas A&M guard Sydney Walton, the words toughness and maturity come to mind.
But that’s just scratching the surface.
The Perryton High School graduate’s road through college basketball isn’t like many others out there. But through the adversity Walton has endured the past four years, she always knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Heavy stuff for a 22-year-old who said playing her senior season at WT is “a blessing” — which is easy to believe after taking into account she’s had three surgeries to the same leg in the past four years.
The first time Walton injured her right leg was in June of 2013 after her junior season at Perryton while at an Oklahoma State team camp.
The second time came last season at Angelo State, followed by another setback during weight training during the offseason in September.
Through all of the frustration and rehabilitation, Walton said giving up was never considered as an option.
“Quitting has never crossed my mind,” Walton said. “The only thing that has ever crossed my mind is redshirting. I’ve never thought of missing my senior season. I never thought of giving up.”
Walton has never missed a college basketball game — not at Oklahoma State her freshman and sophomore years and not at WT.
She was determined her latest injury wasn’t going to keep her from missing the first game of her senior season.
“The strength and conditioning is really good at WT,” said Walton, who has played in 49 games at WT. “I knew I could get back before the season. And a few months later, I was in playing in the opener in Colorado.”
She said the injury was grueling from a mental and physical standpoint.
But it doesn’t compare to the reason Walton had to leave OSU for WT in the first place.
During her sophomore season at OSU, Walton’s mother, Felicia, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Walton transferred to WT to help take care of her mother and help her father, Austin, who is a farmer. Walton, the oldest of four siblings, helped take care of the family while managing time for school and basketball.
“It appears to me that she has a different perspective on life and gratitude,” WT coach Kristen Mattio said. “She doesn’t take things for granted. She’s been through a lot and so has her family. I think Sydney grew up a lot through all that went on. This summer was such a tough summer for her.
“Her and her mom used themselves as a support system. They kept each other positive. I appreciate her grit and relentlessness. I think in the preseason she gathered herself. She has shown she’s ready to end this year on a positive note.”
Felicia is now cancer-free, and Walton said she hasn’t regretted the decision to transfer from Oklahoma State.
“Coach Mattio and the staff were great to my family during this time and I love them for that,” said Walton, who is averaging 3.6 points and three assists a game this year. “I’m happy where I’m at. We grew up going to WT games. I’ve known all about the Lady Buffs. I’ve had a great experience here at WT. I’m thankful for that. A lot of people go to college and don’t get a great experience like this. This team, this staff has made it memorable.”
Mattio said the Lady Buffs are thankful to have Walton. It’s rare to see a player that started as a junior be willing to come off the bench as a senior, but with the injury and the depth on the No. 2-ranked Lady Buffs roster, that’s Walton’s role so far this year.
“She’s a selfless player,” Mattio said. “I love that. Where we’re at as a team is because of Sydney. If you have a Sydney Walton coming off the bench means you have a great team on your hands. Her ability to pass and see the floor is special. She is a bigger guard and she never takes a day off. She has put in the time and she continues to bring her team along with her.”
West Texas A&M Lady Buffs
Overall Record: 14-0
LSC Record: 6-0
Head coach: Kristen Mattio (3rd Year)
Tiana Parker P.6-5Jr.5.46.9
Angelo State Rambelles
Overall Record: 8-4
LSC Record: 3-3
Head coach: Renae Shippy (1st Year)
Team LSC Overall
West Texas A&M6-014-0
Eastern New Mexico3-37-6
UT Permian Basin3-35-9
Western New Mexico0-60-14
Tarleton State at Texas Woman’s, 11:30 a.m.
UT Permian Basin at Texas A&M-Kingsville, 5:15 p.m.
West Texas A&M at Angelo State, 5:30 p.m.
Western New Mexico at Midwestern State, 5:30 p.m.
Eastern New Mexico at Cameron, 5:30 p.m.
Eastern New Mexico at Midwestern State, 2 p.m.
Western New Mexico at Cameron, 2 p.m.
UT Permian Basin at Angelo State, 2 p.m.
Texas A&M-Commerce at Texas Woman’s 2 p.m.
West Texas A&M at Texas A&M-Kingsville, 4 p.m.