COLUMBIA — At the end of a Hickman girls basketball team's practice, freshman forward Morgan Jones is clearly discouraged. A couple of close shots from under the basket missed.
Enter senior forward Cherish Walton, who swoops in and puts her arm around her teammate. Within seconds the two are laughing as they walk to the locker room.
For Walton, a good sense of humor is part of being a leader. It's even part of how she explains taking the role for the Kewpies.
When the subject comes up, Walton looks around a bit, cracks a smile and responds.
“I just kind of happened,” Walton said before bursting out laughing. “I knew someone had to do it, so I figured why not me?”
Walton likes to joke about her role, but takes her job as one of the leaders of a young Kewpies team seriously. She acknowledges, though, the impact humor can have on a team, and her coach agrees.
“Cherish is our emotional leader and has a gregarious personality,” Hickman coach Tonya Mirts said. “She is very verbal and can provide a touch of humor when needed.”
Mirts will depend on Walton to help implement a new offensive scheme that will have one post presence and four perimeter players. It is up to Walton to determine when it’s time to tell a joke or get down to business.
“It’s a challenge to find a balance. Sometimes, you can get confused and frustrated because it is something new,” Walton said. “But I have to keep cheering on my teammates any way that I can and keep listening to Coach Mirts.”
Mirts is quick to point out that not only is Walton a team leader, she is also one of the Kewpies' star players.
“She creates matchup problems because she is 5-foot-10 but handles the ball really well,” Mirts said. “She is a great shooter, and she can do a lot of different things on the court.”
Walton said Mirts is also stressing communication this year — something Walton said she can definitely help with, whether it is on or off the court.
“During the game, I see what Coach Mirts is saying on the sideline, and I try to communicate that to the rest of the team. They are pretty receptive,” Walton said with a smile. “I think the younger players don’t always know what to do, so they are looking for someone to tell them what to do.”
While being a leader has its difficulties, doing so with a good sense of humor certainly has its perks.
“I really think the younger girls want to do well for the seniors like Jade Holly and me,” Walton said. “Of the last couple years, I think our senior class is the favorite.”