Talia Walton will have both of her parents in Indianapolis for her big moment on the biggest stage in college basketball. Walton and the Huskies play Syracuse on Sunday night in the Final Four, and her mom, Thomasina, and dad, Kevin, will be there at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
For six days, Talia Walton refused to leave her mother’s side.
Thomasina Walton would try to get her daughter to go home, to get a little rest, to get a warm shower, but Talia wouldn’t leave that Virginia Mason Hospital room until her mom could, too. Talia slept in a chair and showered at the hospital instead.
In early May 2014, Thomasina had surgery to treat her liver cancer. When, after six days, Thomasina was allowed to go home, Talia went with her, moving back in with her mom and dad for most of the summer.
Talia Walton by the numbers
40 Minutes per game she’s averaged in the last six games. UW has won five of those.
20.0 Points per game during the NCAA tournament for Walton.
43 Field-goal percentage during the NCAA tournament.
“She lived with me for about three months,” Thomasina said. “She took me to every appointment, every procedure; she didn’t miss a thing. I can’t explain how that just, oh my …”
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So of course mom won’t be missing this, her daughter’s big moment on the biggest stage in college basketball. Talia Walton and the Huskies play Syracuse on Sunday night in the Final Four, and her mom and dad, Kevin, will be there at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Talia, the senior forward from Federal Way, always took comfort in being able to look up for UW home games to see her family. Dad is the anxious one, usually sitting alone in the upper section at Alaska Airlines, just him and his nerves. Mom sits closer to the UW bench on the baseline, usually accompanied by Talia’s older brother, Ricky, and his two young sons, LaShon and Rick’i. If you’ve been to a game this season, surely you’d recognize the boys: They seem to be highlighted on the video screen as much as their aunt is.
“They mean everything,” Talia said of her family. “It’s amazing to be able to look up in the stands every single home game and see them right there, cheering, going crazy. Especially my mom.”
Thomasina proudly boasts that over the past five years she was able to attend every home game at UW but one — one when she was still recovering from cancer treatments.
Thomasina was up by 3 a.m. Thursday. She was excited, too excited to sleep, and before she went to work she wanted to finish packing her bags ahead of her departure for Indianapolis on Friday morning. Liver cancer has hit the family hard: Thomasina’s mom and sister were in their mid-30s when they both died because of it. Her brother was in his 60s when he died from it.
Thomasina went into remission about a year and a half ago, and she gets checkups every six months now. “I’m doing good,” she said. “They’re watching me real closely.”
Talia points to her mother as inspiration. When she was faced with a fourth knee surgery last year, she thought about her mom’s struggle.
“She’s a fighter, for sure,” Talia said. “I thought, ‘If my mom can go through that, I get through these.’”
Thomasina, who works two jobs as an assistant instructor at Group Health and at Pima Medical Institute, has been there to help Talia back from each setback with her knees.
“She’s not a complainer,” Mom says of daughter. “She’s a tough cookie, I have to give it to her. Yes she is. It’s part of who we are.”
Thomasina also sends Talia a Bible passage before games, which has helped provide comfort through good and bad times, through hot streak and cold streaks, both of which Talia knows well.
She went through a dreadful five-game stretch midway through the Pac-12 season, shooting .226 from the field (.194 on three-pointers) and seeing her confidence plummet. She admits now she let outside factors get into her head then, namely the idea of trying to impress WNBA scouts.
She’s excelled in the postseason, playing 40 minutes in each of the past six games and averaging 20.0 points on 43 percent shooting in UW’s four NCAA tournament victories. She had 30 points on 14-of-25 shooting in last week’s Sweet 16 victory over Kentucky in the Lexington Regional, which Mom agreed was the best game of Talia’s career.
And there’s more yet to come.
“Her confidence is through the roof right now,” Thomasina said. “Whenever she would get down on herself, I would tell her, ‘Don’t beat yourself up.’ And I’m really proud of her for that. … Words can’t describe how proud I am of her.”
As a No. 7 seed, the Huskies (26-10) have been the story of this tournament because they have scorers like Walton, Kelsey Plum and Chantel Osahor who are capable of carrying the team for any stretch at any time.
“To be able to play how I’ve been playing on this stage with this team and doing what we’re doing is phenomenal. It’s so much fun,” she said. “It seems like everybody’s elevated their game and to not feel like I have to do more than I’m capable of is awesome, because now I just get to be who I am; Chantel is who she is, and so on and so forth.
“This is the prefect time of year to get it going again for all of us.”
|Talia Walton file|
|Notable: Team’s second-leading scorer at 16.2 points per game. … Scored a career-high 33 points in the season opener vs. Santa Clara, including eight three-pointers. … Scored 30 points in a Sweet 16 victory over Kentucky. … With 1,790 points, she ranks sixth on UW’s career list.|