Amy Lyon had always dreamed of playing Division I basketball. Last year, she finally got her chance when she became a walk-on member of the women’s basketball team.
“She is naturally athletic, basketball is a given talent for her,” said assistant coach Karen Force ’04. “She came in and played with us in preseason and it seemed like a good fit.” While it may have been a simple decision for the coaching staff, it was a much more complicated process for Lyon.
A former high-school standout, Lyon thought she had lost any chance to play college ball when she suffered a season-ending injury midway through her junior year and all recruiting interest disappeared. She settled for the chance to compete in crew for Cornell so she could enjoy a big school feeling and the competition that comes with it. Then, one day, opportunity nearly knocked her over.
While on her way out of crew practice, Lyon happened to run into a girl on her way to basketball tryouts. Although she had just been through an exhausting three-hour practice, Lyon couldn’t pass up the chance to give college basketball a try.
“I walked into the gym and it just worked out,” Lyon said. “I talked to the coaches the next day, and they said ‘why don’t you come do preseason with us.’ For a while, I would run from class to crew to basketball. Then we had individual meetings before Thanksgiving and the coaches said they would love to have me as a part of the team. I was in total shock. This is what I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl, but it never seemed like it would work out.”
For Lyon, being on the team and travelling and being part of practices was more than she had hoped for. Watching the dominating performances of seniors like Force and Tanya Karcic ’04 night after night was a learning experience Lyon was grateful to be part of. Logging only 16 minutes of playing time in 10 appearances didn’t bother Lyon, because she was finally living of her dream.
“To tell you the truth I didn’t expect to play at all [last year],” Lyon said. “I knew my role as a walk-on was to make the starting five and everyone else better in practice. I loved practices — practices were my games.”
After a more than a year of practicing and trying to help others get better, it has become apparent that Lyon had made progress of her own.
“She worked hard this summer and improved a lot,” Force said. “She was ready to step into a larger role this season.”
Lyon was more than ready, having spent the summer running several miles a day and working to get quick enough to keep up with the college game. That dedication has paid off, as Lyon has started 15 of the 16 games she has appeared in. The player who scored more than 1,400 points in her high school career and led her league in nine statistical categories her senior season has become a valuable inside threat for a young and untested team.
“We sort of went into this season thinking we’re gonna do what we can with what we have,” Lyon said. “Once you have all the individual talents in front of you, once it all comes together we’ll be a tough team to beat. In games a lot of the mistakes we’re making is because we’re young. In terms of playing time, we’re all freshmen.”
Lyon is doing her part, on and off the court, to help the team.
“The past couple of weeks she’s been working really hard,” Force said. “She’s stepped up in the work ethic category, and when the team sees that it sets a good example, raising the level of intensity at practice.”
And Lyon has made the most of her chance to realize her dream. She leads the Red with 5.5 rebounds per game, and is the third-leading scorer with 9.4 points per game. She has also contributed 20 steals this season, third best on the team.
But Lyon is not interested in her individual numbers.
“I’d rather the team be winning,” she said. “We can take all our talents and make them work together as a whole. Once we figure out everyone’s strengths and start playing together, we’ll be a great team. It might be next year, maybe this season, you never know when it’ll happen.”
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Staff Writer