With one hand dribbling the ball and both eyes flicking between her teammates and the basket, Xamiya Walton coordinates her plan of attack. She steps up to the opposing team’s defense. You can see the calculations behind her eyes, the silent communication to her teammates, just before she passes or sinks in yet another three-pointer.
As one of the team captains of the varsity Lady Lynx basketball team at Butler College Prep, Xamiya is committed to the game. Two weeks ago, she and her team sunk in ball after ball to snatch the regional championship plaque for the second year in a row. Last week, they sailed through sectionals, beating out both their opponents. Now, Xamiya and her team are dashing towards the state championship, only one game away.
Today, they’re heading to that game – the IHSA Super-Sectional. This is where they were defeated last year. If they win it, they’ll be the first basketball team at Noble to go to state.*
“I’m super excited,” Xamiya said, “I definitely think we can do it.”
Since last year, Xamiya says the team has improved a lot. She also said their newest additions to the team this year have also stepped up to the challenge.
“We’re a totally different team in a real positive way,” Xamiya said, “It’s crazy to see how much everyone has improved from last year. The new players will definitely help us – and have helped us – in all of our big games.”
Of course, Xamiya herself has put in a ton of hard work to get ready for this historic run. This season alone, she’s been averaging about 24 points per game. She’s also getting close to hitting 2000 points scored total over her high school basketball career. On top of that, she’s received a multitude of awards and recognitions. Last year, she was named the IHSA 2A State three-point champion last year. Now, she’s received over 20 full-ride athletic scholarship offers from different universities and colleges, including Harvard, Boston College, Northwestern, and Ohio State.
Xamiya is also the first high school student athlete in Illinois to sign a NIL deal.
Xamiya plays as a point guard and a shooting guard for her team.
Her father and Butler’s varsity basketball coach, Xaver Walton, says he doesn’t take it easy on her and she’s fully earned every single position, recognition, and offer.
“I do my best to treat her like every other player,” Coach X, as he’s called by his players, said, “I learned through my dad that it doesn’t matter if you’re related to someone, you still have to work for what should be earned and not given. With Xamiya, I will say, she’s worked for everything that has come her way, and I just hope she just nevers give up.”
Xamiya has been glued to the court since she was litte, hanging out on the sidelines during the practices and games her dad coached. Once she reached kindergarten, she jumped into the game herself, joining in on practices and attending her first basketball camp. Xamiya says her first few times at that Doug Bruno Basketball Camp were defining moments for her in her basketball career.
Xamiya was the youngest of all the kids at the time. The other kids wouldn’t pass her the ball because she was smaller, and while her frustration kicked in, she still didn’t give up. The frustration instead encouraged her to work on her skills even more so she could show up in those spaces.
“I think that just gave me the opportunity to understand that the more you stay in the gym, maybe the more they’ll be willing to give you the ball and the more opportunities you’ll have out there,” Xamiya said, “It just reminded me to work harder.”
Her father has been her biggest cheerleader since day one. Coach X recalled a moment when Xamiya was six years old and she wasn’t putting her all into practice. But after telling her that she didn’t have to practice, Xamiya kept going. He wrote a letter to her that day – one that he still keeps framed on his wall.
“In this letter, I put I knew she was gonna make it because she spent the next 10 minutes bouncing that ball the hardest I’ve ever heard someone that young bounce a basketball,” Coach X said, tears in his eyes, “It was just a matter of her growing into it.”
Since those first few camps and practices, Xamiya has stayed committed to the sport, winning national championships with her teams in both the 3rd and 6th grades.
Xamiya says she tried other sports but always came back to basketball.
“I enjoyed the challenge to try to be the best, especially since it wasn’t just a talent I was born with. The fact that it had to be a process was the most enjoyable part,” Xamiya said, “And then working out with my dad and my younger sister was cooler because it was a family thing.”
THE PATH TO STATE
Xamiya is proud of all the hard work she’s done to get to this point. To her, winning the state championship would not only be an amazing acknowledgement of her effort but a major win for Butler College Prep overall.
“It definitely would mean the world. Like, people say that, but it truly would mean the world to me. That’s been a goal I’ve had since I was way younger,” Xamiya said, “It would stamp down everything we’ve done here at Butler.”
Coach X has been serving as head coach for the Lady Lynxes since 2017, before Xamiya was even in high school. Back then, when he took the job, he promised former Principal Goins that he would get them the state championship. Now, he’s ecstatic for the chance to deliver on that promise.
Xamiya’s teammates are also stoked for the chance.
“I feel excited. This is like our second round so I’m hoping we get farther than we were before. I just want to see us thrive and get better as we go,” said Neleh, #4 on the team and a junior at Butler.
“I feel and believe we will go down state! It’s been something big since last year and feeling the aching pain of losing and hearing them tears of my teammates cry,” Serenti Adams, #2 on the team and Xamiya’s fellow team captain said, “I feel more motivated and full of confidence because we been working and will continue working once we get down state.”
Both Neleh and Sereniti are glad for Xamiya’s leadership as the team heads towards state.
“She’s a good role model. She knows how to lift people up when we’re down. She knows how to be a good captain,” Neleh said.
“Xamiya is a leader and does everything to make sure the team wins. She’s been a great captain since we first started at Butler, and she continues to grow more and more as a leader and also a teammate and friend everyday!” Sereniti said.
Coach X is proud of the whole team. When they lost at the Super-Sectional last year, Coach X was afraid they would give up after the disappointment, but he was impressed by their resilience this year.
“I think the girls understand from their success last year that the work is required. I’m really thankful that the girls like being in the gym,” Coach X said.
Coach X wants to thank all of the folks who have supported him and the team to get them to this point: His assistant coaches, Eddie Niles and Courtney Tarver; Butler’s athletic director, Brandey Tarver; his wife, Quiana, for all of her support; Principal Riddick, for going the extra mile to support the team; and former Principal Goins, for allowing him to be the coach in 2017.
A WIN FOR THE WHOLE NOBLE COMMUNITY
If the Lady Lynxes win the state championship, Coach X says it won’t just mean a lot to Butler College Prep but to the whole Noble community.
“In a situation like this, we’re playing for all Noble schools, we’re not just playing for Butler,” Coach X said, “The jersey may say Butler, but if a Noble school can make it down state in any team sport, that is huge for the Noble community – we’re only a school district of 18 schools!”
Both he and Xamiya encourage every Noble student, staff member, and family to show up to root on the team if they can.
“Fans dictate a lot in sports and they can help swing the momentum just by cheering,” Coach X said, “I would ask those people who enjoy the game of basketball or just enjoy sports to come check us out… We are gonna need other schools and staff to come cheer us on.”
“Just come out to support. Everyone’s support is definitely needed,” Xamiya said, “It’s usually a show when we play. We like to perform and give people what they’re looking for – often in the form of winning.”
Here is the schedule and details for tonight’s game (and the state finals, if they win tonight!):
P.S. If you’re heading to the game and looking to get pumped for it, take a page out of Xamiya’s pre-game ritual – listen to your favorite music artists. Xamiya likes to listen to a whole playlist of Lil Baby’s songs before she heads onto the court.
*A correction has been made to this article since it was published:
The Lady Lynxes are not the first sports team in Noble history to go to state. They are the first basketball team to go to state.
Noble has had 9 state championships in a variety of sports, including wrestling, badminton, rugby, and track & field.
Thank you to Jamelle Robert Williams, the coach for the Comer wrestling team, and Jason Ronai, the Senior Director of Health, Fitness, & Athletics for sending us this correction.