Casey Hunt details her journey from walk-on to a full scholarship for the Flames

Every student athlete’s journey requires persistence, but for Lady Flames basketball player Casey Hunt, the endurance it took to reach her goals demanded a new level of patience. The walk-on player never thought that becoming a Lady Flame would be her reality, but a lifetime of dedication paired with newfound faith made the difference for the guard. 

Hunt’s path to Lynchburg began in the northern parts of Massachusetts, where her childhood was engulfed in sports. Her dad is a former college hockey player and her mom a college soccer player, so as a child she was well aware of the route she would be pushed toward — but she loved it.   

“I feel like I inherited a super big competitive edge from my parents, but in the best way possible,” Hunt said. “My dad would always tell me stories of how I’m on the same path that he was when he was playing. He was like, ‘Casey, I see myself in you.’”

Hunt’s competitive drive only expanded with age. After setting her sights on the sport of basketball, she spent many years in the intense world of the competitive basketball circuit. Whether with AAU teams or school programs, Hunt knew all too well the passion, and sometimes pressure, that come with playing the game at the next level. 

“I’ve always used basketball as a mini arena for all of life,” Hunt said. “I just feel like if you could condense all of life’s lessons and all the things you’re going to have to go through into a sport, for me, that was basketball. I feel like I lived through everything so intensely, so fast. I feel like it gave me so much maturity throughout my time playing.”

Soon enough, her mindset of maturity allowed her to make one of the toughest decisions in her life. 

Photo by Chase Gyles

Basketball had been Hunt’s everything, but after discovering Christ in her high school years, the athlete then knew that pursuing her faith took precedence over her love for the game. Hunt had heard about Liberty University through multiple friends and couldn’t ignore the tug on her heart to come to Lynchburg. 

“I thought, ‘How do I want to set myself up for the future?’ And to me, I wanted to grow in my faith as much as I possibly can,” Hunt said. 

The only downside to coming to the Mountain was basketball. Hunt reached out to Liberty’s coaches many times in her senior year of high school, sending them any highlight videos she had and seeing if her joining the Lady Flames could ever be possible. 

The news she received, however, was that the team had a full roster. 

“I decided if basketball is a closed door, then that’s fine. I had my run,” Hunt said.

The freshman arrived on campus anyway, choosing to leave the game behind and focus on other aspects of life. She would often engage in pickup basketball games at LaHaye, keeping her skills in her back pocket in case the opportunity arose.

As time passed, it grew more apparent that she’d likely never don the Flames’ basketball jersey. But something inside of her wouldn’t let go of the hope. 

“Honestly, I was like, ‘I’m going to hate myself in the future if I don’t keep trying and keep reaching out,’” Hunt said.

The report Hunt got from Lady Flames Assistant Coach Andy Bloodworth after reaching out again, however, was one of a roster that’s still full.   

“I was like, ‘Okay, so what should I do?’ And (Bloodworth) took a huge pause, and she said, ‘Just pray.’ And honestly, that’s all I could have done at that point,” Hunt said. “What else can I do but ask the Lord for guidance through it and just to direct my next steps?”

Hunt never stopped praying, knowing that while the chance was unlikely, you simply never know what faith can do. The perseverance paid off. 

In the spring of 2023, Hunt received a text from Bloodworth asking her to hop on a phone call. The coach then told Hunt that she was invited to come in for two weeks to show the staff what she was capable of. Both eager and shocked that she’d finally received her chance, there were inevitable nerves for Hunt heading into the tryout. 

“I was nervous because I hadn’t been in women’s basketball for two years. I didn’t know how much the game progressed without me,” Hunt said. “When I played pickup in LaHaye against a bunch of guys, sometimes the guys would crush me, and sometimes I’d have them spinning in circles, so I couldn’t gauge anything from that. … I honestly had zero idea how I was going to do.”

Photo by KJ Jugar

The competitive drive from her childhood, however, reemerged, and Hunt gave everything she had in those two weeks. It was enough to convince Bloodworth and the entire coaching staff to not only give Hunt a second look, but a spot on the team’s 2023-24 roster. 

“It’s a little bit surreal still. It’s never going to not be,” Hunt said. 

Months later, Hunt was hit with another surreal moment. 

In early January, Head Coach Carey Green asked his team to stay after practice to solve a puzzle at half court. Confused, the players went along with it, knowing their coach must have had something worthwhile in mind. As they deciphered the puzzle, the players realized that it spelled out a message — their new teammate, Hunt, was now on full scholarship. 

The group erupted, jumping and yelling in support of Hunt, who was overcome with emotion. Her persistence had taken her from a student trusting God’s plan to an NCAA Division I athlete on scholarship, and she couldn’t help but reflect on the path that brought her there. 

“I was so surprised that I was even on the team in the first place. I felt like I could almost rest a little bit and look back and be like, ‘Wow, this has been a long journey.’ Long, difficult, confusing. It’s grown me so much,” Hunt said. “I really just felt like I was standing on a mountain looking back at the trail that I just hiked up.”

Now, less than one month away from battling with her team in the Conference USA tournament in Huntsville, Alabama, Hunt’s passion embodies a team that hopes to make a deep postseason run in its new conference. And after years of questions and doubts about the journey she’s on, the guard feels more confident than ever that she belongs. 

“I just think the moment itself was kind of saying, like, you are part of this. Don’t even think for a second that you don’t (belong) because you don’t play as much as other people or anything like that. It was bringing it to light that I’ve earned my place,” Hunt said. “This team takes care of each other, and just being able to be a part of that is just honestly amazing. Biggest blessing ever.”

Cory is the sports editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on X.

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