Cortnee Walton, of Surprise, Ariz., is a starting forward for one of the elite women’s basketball programs in the nation, but it is her work off the court that is being recognized. The 6-foot-3 University of Louisville redshirt junior was named to the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team this week, celebrating college players who make a difference in their communities.
“It’s a great honor,” Walton said. “A lot of great players were nominated and not chosen. Most of the work I do is with kids.”
There were five athletes selected each from Divisions I, II and III, plus the NAIA, with the Division I team consisting of Walton, Taylor Brown of George Mason, Stephanie Davison of Northern Iowa, Danielle Rodriguez of Utah, and Katarina Vuckovic of Georgia Tech. Future Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings was the head of the group that selected the women’s team.
“She volunteers at Family Scholar House for disadvantaged families and Maryhurst foundation for children with emotional and behavioral problems, so we have that in common,” Catchings said of Walton. “I am looking forward to spending time with her at the Final Four. This is our fourth year of doing this program, and I’ve been involved since the beginning. There were 103 nominees. On the court and off, some things are more important than wins.”
Walton, who just turned 22 Feb. 9, said Maryhurst contacted Louisville for potential volunteers, and then it went to the women’s basketball program. Former player Tia Gibbs had a positive experience with it, so Walton reached out next. Although, there are younger girls in the programs, and Walton loves children, she said she mostly works with the 13 or 14 year olds and high schoolers.
“They house girls that are sexually abused, so I go and talk to them and talk to schools,” Walton said of Maryhurst. “There have been a lot of sad stories. It started opening my eyes because it’s only something I had seen at the movies. I was a little naive then. The horrible things that can happen, just getting my time, really makes a difference.”
Her family had been active in the Church at Arrowhead in Glendale, volunteering at events such as Christmas parties, so Cortnee had been exposed to giving back since she was young. Her sister, Brandee, plays at New Mexico State, as well.
“We were very fortunate growing up,” Cortnee said. “My family is big on giving back because we believe in a higher power. We need to give back, that’s how my parents raised me, to help people.”
When she attended St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, Walton said it was a requirement to do 90 hours of community service, so that drilled in the students’ minds what a priority it was to help others. Not to mention, the basketball team went undefeated at 30-0 to claim state championships her junior and senior seasons, and every player on the roster made it to Division I.
On the academic side, Walton graduated last year after three years, with a bachelor’s in communications. She is currently pursuing a master’s in sports administration and intends to be a sports broadcaster afterwards, saying she was always a spokesperson at St. Mary’s pep rallies and the like. A toe fracture that sidelined her for most of last season will give her another one of playing eligibility.
“Originally, I wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “After I came to college, I didn’t like the amount of time it required, and I weren’t passionate enough about medicine to do that.”
For those interested in volunteering, Walton advises to find a position that suits you and your strengths. She mentioned how she loves kids, but others may not have the patience she has.
Walton is fifth on the Cardinals with 6.3 points and second with 7.6 rebounds, as the team has won 17 of its last 18, with a five-point loss to Notre Dame the blemish. At 20-6 and 11-1 in the ACC, Louisville has risen to No.11 in the NCAA polls. Feb. 11, she scored a career-high 18 points against Pittsburgh to go with her double-double of 10 rebounds. She also played five minutes as a freshman in the 2013 NCAA title game loss to Connecticut.