By Brian Roe, Sports Writer
Leah Wilson did not expect to impact the ACU Rodeo last spring. However, when Leah and teammates Melanie Carter and Jenny Jackson entered the calf scramble, the event in which teams fight with other teams to try to drag the calf in the middle by the tail, she ended up pulling the tail off the animal.
All the way off.
“I heard people in the crowd yell ‘pull it by the tail,’ and so I did, and the calf’s tail came off,” Wilson explained. “A good two feet of the tail was in my hand, and I just screamed and chucked the tail as far as I could. The workers at the rodeo said they had never seen anything like that before. I have such a tender heart for animals that I just started crying.”
As a walk-on, end of the bench, defensive specialist, one would not think of Wilson having an impact on the Lady Wildcats basketball team either.
Leah Wilson, as her coach Shawna Lavender described, is the heartbeat of the ACU basketball team.
“Leah is the type of player every coach wants on her team and every player wants to play with,” Lavender said. “You just always want her on the floor.”
Wilson, a 5-foot, 7-inch guard from Abilene, came to ACU without a scholarship, without a guaranteed spot on the team and without a doubt that she would not only make the team but make an impact on the team.
“ACU and its coaches have been so good to me and have always given me the opportunity to succeed,” Wilson said. “I would not have had my college career any other way.”
Wilson was given the opportunity to make an impact her freshman year when three players in front of her went down with injuries, and she was promoted to starter. Wilson never looked back and has started for the Wildcats ever since.
“We had some tough injuries that year, and Leah knew it was her turn, and she stepped up and worked her way into the starting rotation,” Lavender said. “She is the epitome of what hard work can do.”
It’s easy to overlook Wilson. Unlike some of her teammates, she is not over six feet tall, and she has no glamorous statistics averaging only 5.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game last season. However, her importance is not measured in statistics.
“Leah brings that knowledge, experience, intensity and passion to the game that make people want to play with her,” Lavender said.
Wilson said she knows her role and just loves playing the game of basketball.
“I consider myself a defensive specialist,” Wilson said. “I enjoy playing a fast-paced game, and I like to motivate people by working hard. I think I bring energy and encouragement to the team, and I love working together as a team.”
After playing for a team last year that was one game away from qualifying for the Lone Star Conference tournament, Wilson said she is ready for more success this year.
“My expectations for this year are very high,” she said. “As always, we recruited some great girls not only on the basketball court, but those that are our best friends and are awesome girls. We are so close, and because of that we have so much fun playing together. This year, I mainly expect to have fun and win.”
Winning is what Wilson is looking for, and after three straight seasons without reaching the postseason, Wilson is looking to help the Lady Wildcats pull off: an upset and a bid in the LSC postseason.