Rim rockers and posterizations may be coming to Rush Gymnasium this season, courtesy of men’s basketball forward Taylor Walton.
The 6-foot-5 Walton dunked for the first time when he was 14 years old. The next year, he dunked in a game for the first time, sealing a playoff victory for Branson High School. Then came a highlight-reel dunk against Marin Catholic during his senior year.
“One of my teammates shot and it hit the rim,” Walton said. “It came off weird and I went up to get the rebound. I had it in my hands and there was a guy under me.” Walton tip-dunked on the defender, causing his teammates to rise off the bench in a synchronized flurry of excitement.
The infamous slam dunk is not Walton’s only skill on the hardwood. He is also a consistent rebounder and low-post scorer, according to head coach Brian Newhall.
Walton’s college debut against CalTech supported Newhall’s claims. The newcomer scored 16 points on eight of 10 shooting and grabbed four boards.
“Taylor has made an immediate impact on our program,” Newhall said. “He has stepped in and become a physical force in the paint.”
Walton said he aims to become a valuable contributor to a Tiger team that takes home the SCIAC title every year. This season, Walton said his first-year status is what motivates him.
“Since I’ve become a collegiate athlete, it‘s been the fact that I’m the new kid, the rookie, the freshman,” Walton said. “And I want to show the team and the coaches that I can play.”
Belen Moreno is an adrenaline junkie, and she says the adrenaline rush is what keeps her diving today.
Moreno, the only women’s diver at Occidental, started diving in her freshman year of high school. Watching her sister, who went on to dive at University of California Santa Barbara, inspired her to try the sport.
“My older sister was a diver long before I was,” Moreno said. “She was really good and I would always watch her and go to all of her meets. It just looked really fun.”
Together, the Moreno sisters would go on dare-devilish journeys to dive into a creek near their hometown of Elk Grove, Calif.
“There are really big boulders that are extremely dangerous,” Moreno said. “And the creek itself is extremely dangerous and people die there every year. But me and my sister, we used to dive off them and do flips.”
Even with her love for risky stunts, Moreno said that she has to clear her mind before she attempts to dive.
“If I think about anything—about the flips I have to do or how well I have to do or how high it is, especially of I’m on the three-meter—then I will freak myself out,” Moreno said.
Before every dive, Moreno has a routine: first she shakes her hands, then she wipes her feet to get a good grip. Then she jumps.
Moreno said that she wants to keep diving during her time at Occidental in order to learn and perfect more dives.
“It’s one of those sports where you can just get up, and keep doing it over and over again,” Moreno said.
Cody Hamane was chosen to be a swimmer at age five.
“The local swim coach saw me, plucked me from the learn-to-swim program, and said, ‘You need to swim,'” Hamane said.
The Hilo, Hawaii native has swam competitively ever since, picking up many accolades along the way, including two “Most Inspirational Athlete” awards from his high school and one selection to an All-Conference First Team. But it is not the individual awards that have kept Hamane in the pool.
“What really has kept me swimming over the last 10-plus years are my teammates and just having fun with my friends,” Hamane said. “It’s the experience I get outside of the pool that can only come from swimming.”
When Hamane is not training at the pool, he is most likely still in the water, spearfishing or bodysurfing in the Pacific Ocean. But when he trains, Hamane gets serious.
“I’m a very analytical person when it comes to swimming,” Hamane said. “I like to break down my technique and have a good awareness of what my body is doing in training.”
Hamane said that his goal for this season is to have a successful SCIAC showing in both individual and relay events.
When Tigers’ point guard Dru Ishibashi was young, her brothers forbid her from playing on the court with them until she improved her game. Now a collegiate athlete, Ishibashi might be worthy of a rematch.
Ishibashi comes from a basketball family. Her brothers, father and mother all played basketball at some point in their lives. At only four years old, Ishibashi picked up her first basketball. She continued to practice on her own, learning dribble moves like the crossover in order to compete with her brothers.
“Just being around the game makes me really happy, so I just kept playing,” Ishibashi said.
Her small, 5-foot-2 stature and team-first attitude primed her for a point guard role.
“I like that I’m able to control the pace of the game because I like a high pace,” Ishibashi said. “So I like running with the ball and just being able to control what’s going on on the court.”
Due to her size, Ishibashi has adopted an aggressive and scrappy style of defense. On offense, she likes to use floaters, runners and scoop layups to maneuver around bigs and score.
Head coach Anahit Aladzhanyan said that Ishibashi also plays with great intensity.
“We look to her to step up as a floor leader and a perimeter player who can create shots for her teammates and for herself,” Aladzhanyan said.
Ishibashi said she wants to do whatever it takes to help the Tigers win games and create a new culture for the women’s basketball program.
Madeline Gillman has swimming in her blood.
Gillman’s mother, who introduced her to the sport, swam at Washington State University. A competitive swimmer since age nine, Gillman has found that the sport provides a unique benefit.
“It gives you a lot of time to really think,” Gillman said. “Not just about what you’re doing in the sport but about what’s going on in your life.”
Besides swimming, Gillman likes to spend time outdoors. Most of her time, however, is spent in the pool.
As a mid-distance specialist, Gillman said that being comfortable with putting everything into a race and not holding anything back is crucial.
“I just like being able to see how much I can push myself, how far I can go,” Gillman said.
Gillman says her perseverance during training translates to her success in the final moments of a race.
“I tend to have a lot of energy at the end of the race,” Gillman said. “I can have a strong finish.”
Gillman wants to improve her times and help the Tigers move up the SCIAC standings.