Friday, January 20, 2017

How the Aggie 12th Man family can show our love and support to an exemplary Aggie grad

Thanks to social media, today I caught wind of a chance to help a fellow Aggie graduate, Ms. Courtney J. Walker, raise $2500. These funds will sustain her basic living expenses until she can secure a position with an international basketball team overseas.

Many of my fellow Aggie basketball fans probably thought the young star’s life was “all set” when she was drafted by the Atlanta Dream last April 2016. Unfortunately, she was drafted in the second round of the WNBA by a team that already had veteran guards in place. Many of us were shocked that she wasn’t already out on the court playing, as she was a four-year starter who set the Texas A&M record for scoring with 1,989 points.

(Photo, left, by Matt Sachs, used with permission)

After the draft, Courtney told "The Eagle":

“I’m not disappointed in not going in the first round, Walker said. I understand teams have needs, so they’re not just going to pick 12 guards even if they’re the 12 best players. I’m OK in going in the second round. This is a business. I’m just happy to have the opportunity and with a great team at that.”

Examining those words, you see instantly her modesty and humility. She was just happy to be chosen in the draft. No one can take that away from her. Now, let’s stop and think about what this young woman accomplished as one of the most important, beloved Texas A&M student-athletes in school history. She completed her degree studies last month and graduated in Computer Engineering. In fact, she was in the middle of posing for her graduation photos on campus last December, when her phone rang.

It was Coach Blair on the line suggesting that she might dash on over to Rudy’s BBQ on Harvey Road like, now, as he wanted her to be his guest that night. She said, “Coach, I’m in the middle of my graduation pictures but I’ll be right over as fast as I can get there.” True to her word, Courtney set a speed record and entered Rudy’s wearing her cap and gown (I reached for my phone and randomly snapped these photos to save for potentially writing about her future pro career.)

When Courtney was a freshman, she recalled being mentored by Kelsey Bone and finding her way. Courtney and Chelsea Jones (an architecture major) spent many hours together as exemplary time managers who kept up very demanding course loads each semester, while playing, traveling, practicing and soaking up all things Aggie. (Game play photos by Matt Sachs, used with permission)

I remember well that Coach Blair would good-naturedly tease Aggie women’s basketball fans saying, “I can’t start my practice until Chelsea gets done with her architecture group project meetings and Courtney gets out of an engineering lab and by then it’s 5:30!” And then he’d put his hands in the air as though he was distressed, but he was bursting with pride that all of his student athletes crushed their classes like they crushed competition at times.

We’ve established that Courtney had the hardest major to deal with while attending college on a basketball scholarship. You’d find both Courtney and Chelsea in the gym when everyone else had left, and as their playing time showed, Courtney was the most outstanding player on the team and Chelsea was the most improved. Both knew discipline and they missed out on much of the typical Aggie’s free time to sleep late, skip a class, or go home during school breaks.

Note to the wise; no Aggie basketball player is going to miss a class, no way, not under the watchful eye of Coach Kelly Bond-White, who can pretty much tell you if it’s 10:00 am on Monday, then player A is in so-and-so class in such-and-such building, and player B is in … You know the drill. Kelly is all about the complete education just as much as Coach Blair is in insisting on graduation. He doesn’t want to mess up his near-perfect record, but really, he cares that each young woman leaves Texas A&M with a diploma, prepared for the world after basketball, and whatever it brings.

About the funds that Courtney needs. What they are for The way to help is by visiting this link to learn more about the GoFundMe account that requests only $2500 total funds for basic living expenses until she can secure a position with an international basketball team overseas. Because she graduated, she no longer has funds from her athletic scholarship, and she doesn’t feel the time is right to commit to a job or engineering career yet because she could be leaving to go overseas at any moment.

Courtney has an agent scouting the best possible opportunity to play professionally. It’s truly a “sure thing” that she will be chosen to play overseas, as have many of our star school athletes, where they make excellent income in their careers. Many of them also prove themselves overseas and are given second chances to sign with WNBA teams, one example being Sydney Colson, today playing for the San Antonio Stars and as an assistant coach working with Head Coach Tina Langley at Rice University.

The fund, in Courtney’s own words, are for her “needs including things such as my prescribed medications, purchasing new contacts and glasses, training expenses, storage fees before I travel, rent, and other related living expenses until an opportunity overseas is afforded to me.”

In one day, she’s received 6 donations totaling $370 of her $2500 goal, one of which came from her former teammate, Achire Ade (we loved Achire before, we love her even more now! #TexasAggieSpirit). It’s only natural, then, that Aggies who believe in helping other Aggies will want to jump right in and participate in this opportunity to give funds to tide this wonderful young woman over until she can secure her ultimate goal.

For more than four years, Courtney J. Walker gave us reason to smile, to scream, cheer, and believe in success for our women’s basketball team. Just a few of her accolades should be noted.

She was named to the Wooden Award watch.

Courtney was also named to the Wade Trophy watch:

Standout former head coach Carolyn Peck said, “Courtney Walker has one of the best midrange jump shots in the country…she was that go-to wing player for coach Gary Blair and is just so smooth.”

Remember when this stellar shooting guard, Courtney J, would log 39 minutes virtually every game and sometimes when we went into overtime, she could always be counting on to be playing 44 of 45 minutes or more, when we were scrambling for the “W”? She, literally, carried our team on her shoulders many games and didn't think a thing about it. Her attitude was always team-centered:

In April 2016, Courtney was named Women’s Basketball MVP at their annual banquet, repeating her award from 2015 and she was also named “Miss Offense” and she led the SEC with 18.4 points per game.

She had three consecutive seasons where she was named to the First Team All-SEC, and throughout Texas A&M's first years with the SEC, was SEC Freshman of the Week and in 2015 was the espnW player of the week, as just two examples of her multiple honors accomplished as a student-athlete.

Here's what ESPN (November, 2015) said:

"Up against what was probably the most challenging two-game week of any team in the country -- at No. 14 Duke on Wednesday and at home against TCU on Saturday -- Texas A&M emerged with a pair of victories to improve to 4-0. Walker was the chief reason why.

The 5-foot-8 guard has made a habit of playing bigger in Texas A&M's marquee games (18 PPG last season against Top 25 opponents), and she delivered against the Blue Devils. Walker scored 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting, with a career-high 11 rebounds. She also scored the most important points of the game. After the 12th-ranked Aggies lost a second-half lead and found themselves trailing by a point in overtime, Walker scored six of the next eight points. Texas A&M never trailed again in the 72-66 overtime win in Durham, a victory that is sure to pay huge dividends in March. Three days later against the much-improved Horned Frogs, Walker put in a 23-point afternoon, and again, her timing couldn't have been better. Off to its best start in four years, TCU led for most of the game, but Walker scored five points in a 9-0 run that gave the Aggies the lead with 5 minutes, 36 seconds remaining. When the Frogs regained the advantage, Walker again had the answer with four points in a 6-0 spurt that put A&M in front. The two-time All-SEC first-team honoree also had eight rebounds and was an efficient 10 of 14 from the field in the 82-78 win. Texas A&M's all-time leader in free throw percentage, Walker went 8-of-9 from the line in the two games and is an 87 percent shooter in her career. …Walker also played 78 of a possible 85 minutes against Duke and TCU… Over four games, Walker is averaging 18.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, shooting 59.6 percent from the field."

Clearly, Courtney J. Walker was our “go-to” player for all four years of her academic/athletic career as a starter at Texas A&M.

On January 12, 2017, my basketball friends and I landed in Flash Seats very close to the team where we delighted in waiting for the famous “Gary Blair jacket toss to Radar Ricke” when the time is right in the game. My eye spotted Courtney a few rows away, sitting by herself, cheering her team on quietly. She didn’t seek any special recognition or spotlight. She just was happy to be there in support of her team, and that’s what Aggie former students do.

I’m hoping that everyone who reads this will consider a contribution of any amount to spell Ms. Walker while she waits for her dream career to come true.

You can donate anonymously if you wish, or you can include your name.

Please know that your funds go straight to Courtney so she can pay her bills, using this secure online funding portal. Let’s show her what her fellow Aggie family can do to show her our appreciation for everything she did to give us some of the very best basketball games to yell about—ever. Let’s show her 12th Man Spirit and perhaps exceed the modest $2500 she requests.

It may take a few months before she has a signed contract with her international team because it’s a business that doesn’t move as fast as Aggies do!

This is a golden opportunity for all former students, friends, and fans of Texas A&M Women’s Basketball to step up and be a part of a team of encouragement and tangible support for a truly special young Aggie graduate, Courtney J. Walker, ’16.

Again, to help Courtney, click this link. Let’s take a moment to think of this stunning opportunity to say “Thank you” to a young Aggie graduate who, for four straight years, has exemplified everything good and right about Texas A&M as a destination for student-athletes to succeed in life. Gig ‘em, Courtney J. Walker!

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