By Michael Barnes
Incoming Bishop Ireton girls’ basketball head coach Kesha Walton is no stranger to success.
Walton, during her 12 years coaching girls’ basketball at T.C. Williams High School, transformed the Titans’ varsity program into a state powerhouse, accumulating a record of 181-31. That record included two undefeated seasons in conference play. Walton also coached the Titans’ girls junior varsity squad.
“Change is always difficult,” Walton said of her transition from T.C. Williams to B.I. “But the girls and everyone [at B.I.] have really been buying in to what I am bringing. It has been really great and I am excited moving forward.”
During her time as the coach of the T.C. varsity program, Walton led the Titans to five district titles and two state tournament appearances. She also received a number of accolades, including being voted District Coach of the Year three times. When Walton arrived at T.C., the school had not had a women’s basketball team reach the regional tournament for a number of years. By Walton’s final two years at the school, the program ranked in the top 20 in the D.C. metro region among both private and public schools.
Despite her success, Walton was ready for her next challenge. When she heard about the opening at Bishop Ireton, she jumped at the chance.
“I want the challenge of continuing to build this program,” Walton said. “The toughest part was leaving the kids and administration who I made such strong connections with, but I am ready for this next challenge.”
Former Bishop Ireton women’s basketball coach Jason Harris decided to leave the program when he received an offer to coach at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina, leaving the position open.
Harris had spent four years turning around a B.I. program that was in a rebuilding stage in his first year. In his inaugural season at the helm, Ireton’s women’s basketball team finished under .500, with a record of 15-17. Over the course of the next three years, they flipped the script, finishing 23-10 for the 2017-18 season and were even ranked in the region.
He ultimately decided to pursue his passion at NCCU and, in the process, left a program and a group of girls he considered family. He was comforted by the appointment of Walton to his position.
“I could not have asked for someone better to take over the team and girls I have become so close with,” Harris said.
Harris’ support of Walton doesn’t just stem from her success at T.C., but also from the bonds they formed while coaching together in the Amateur Athletic Union for the Premier Sports Performance Academy Rams. They have had a share of success on the sidelines together.
“I know the team is in good hands with Kesha,” Harris said. “It’s important that the kids have someone who cares for them and she does. It was a bold move by her to take the challenge and I know she’s going to be successful.”
Walton said that Harris also made her transition to head coach for the Cardinals seamless.
“Jason paved the path for me. I’m just being handed the torch and trying to run with it,” Walton said.
B.I. Athletic Director Bryce Bevill praised her coaching ability and her ability to be a mentor.
“In searching for a coach, [I could not find] a single person [that had] a bad thing to say about Kesha,” Bevill said. “She’s a mentor on and off the court. She sets herself apart and I can see why everyone said such positive things about her. Everyone knows her and loves her.”
Looking ahead, Walton did not speak of accolades or successes – she said what she truly wants is for her athletes to believe in each other and themselves. She wants to make sure that the community knows that the Ireton girls mean business on the court this year and will also be active members in the community.
“Come out and support the girls,” Walton said. “But not just on the court – come support us in the community as we will be giving back.”
Harris said Walton is such a role model both on and off the court that his daughter told him she would rather play for the former T.C. coach than her own father.
“My daughter has always said she’s going to play for Kesha when she gets to high school, no matter where she’s coaching at,” Harris joked.
Walton and the Ireton women’s team will kick off their season on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. against The Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, Maryland. The Cardinals’ first home game of the season is slated for Dec. 16 at 12:20 p.m., for the She Got Game Classic.