Rifle’s Walters signs with Regis University
Arguably the best girls basketball player in Rifle High School history will have a new home next fall.
Senior point guard Elly Walters, the daughter of Roger and Christy Walters, signed her National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Regis University, Thursday evening inside Jack Smith Gymnasium at Rifle High School in front of family, friends, coaches and school administrators. After making a verbal commitment to the Rangers and head coach Molly Marrin at the end of July, the standout Rifle senior made it official on the second day of the early signing period, giving the Rangers a major boost in the 2018 recruiting class.
“I just really liked the basketball coaches, the program and the school,” Walters said following the official signing of the papers. “What really sold it for me was during a recent camp where I knew this was the place for me. It was just a feeling that I had come over me, and I just knew.”
Walters picked Regis over Colorado Mesa University in the end, largely due to her relationship with the coaching staff and seeing first-hand how the program was run. With Regis being a Colorado school as well, the decision was easy for the top guard in the 4A Western Slope League, considering her parents, friends and even former coaches could possibly come watch her games for the next four years.
“I’m just extremely happy for her,” senior forward Peyton Caldwell, a close friend and teammate of Elly’s, said prior to the official signing. “I know how hard she’s worked to get here, so I’m very glad she gets the chance to keep playing for however long she wants to keep playing.”
The journey to college basketball started for Walters dating back to fifth grade, which is when the Rifle product realized that her dream was to play college basketball in college. Throughout the years, Walters has displayed impressive dedication to the sport and the classroom, putting in the work over the years to become the best student-athlete she can be at the high school level, which has led directly to her getting a chance to continue her playing career at the collegiate level.
“It’s just a dream come true, to be honest,” Walters said. “This is just really rewarding, and I’m really excited for this opportunity. I’m super thankful for it, but I know that the journey’s not over. There’s so much more I need to do to get better and so much time to accomplish bigger things in basketball, but I don’t want my final season at Rifle to end.”
“Her journey really did start in fifth grade when her father was coaching at CMU,” Rifle girls basketball head coach Kristy Wallner said. “It’s really neat seeing a kid who chose at such a young age to pursue something, through all the ups and downs and to forge it into a career and make it happen like Elly did.”
Under Wallner, Walters becomes the third player in five years to play college basketball. Prior to Walters signing with Regis, Chante Church (McCook Community College and then Regis) and Samantha Hinkle (McCook Community College) went on to play in the collegiate ranks.
For the Bears, Walters headlines a group of returning seniors from last season’s 4A WSL champions. That same group made a deep run into the 4A state playoffs, reaching the Great Eight. Now, with another year under her belt as the leader of the Bears and the stress of picking a college off of her shoulders, Walters is poised to lead the Bears to greater heights this fall.
“The goal is definitely another conference championship,” Walters said. “That was a lot of fun last year, and I think we can do it again if we work as hard as we did last year. I’d like for us to make another deep state run as well. We want to get back to the final eight again and hopefully go further.”
The Rifle senior hasn’t decided quite yet what she wants to study in college. Thoughts of entering the business field have crossed her mind, but for now she’s leaning towards going into the math field to get a math degree.
Whatever she decides to enter into at school, she’ll be a success thanks to her demeanor on and off the floor, as well as her dedication to the task at hand, according to 23-year Rifle athletic director Troy Phillips, who made it a point to be at Walters’ signing Thursday evening.
“Quite frankly, the reason I wanted to be here tonight is because she’s the best student-athlete I’ve witnessed here in my 23 years,” Phillips said. “Her demeanor on the court, her work ethic is unmatched and she doesn’t let anything bother her. She points the team ahead of herself no matter what, and in the classroom she was my Student of the Year winner as a freshman. She works incredibly hard even though she has to miss a ton of class for basketball and golf. She comes in after hours and gets caught up with all the work and does it to the highest level.
“If we had a model that we wanted every athlete at Rifle to emulate, she’d be it.”
Walters and the Bears will tip off the 2017-18 season Dec. 1 at the Brenda Patch Tournament at Roaring Fork High School against Durango.
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It was a close game, but after some thrilling back-and-forth plays the Rifle Bears were able to pull off the 28-20 victory over The Academy on May 1.