Ciurtesy: Brandon University Bobcats
BRANDON – The Brandon Bobcats have landed a talented recruit from the prairies with a powerful story to tell.
Travis Walls is from Wakaw, Sask., which can be found roughly halfway between Saskatoon and Prince Albert. Volleyball roots run deep in the community and Walls was introduced to the sport at a young age.
"Our girls team is always winning or at least medalling at provincials. When I was growing up my mom would always get a member of the team to come and babysit," said Walls.
Once Walls got his chance to hit the floor he flourished.
The six-foot-three outside hitter helped his team to a second-place finish at the 3A Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association championship in 2015.
He also earned the opportunity represent his province at the National Team Challenge Cup where Walls caught the eye of Volleyball Canada. Following the tournament, he was invited to compete in the Youth National Development Program.
"That experience was important and it helped me realize that I was on the same page as the other top players in my age group," added Walls. "I never would have expected that."
An unexpected health scare that winter blindsided Walls. It started as a case of strep throat and turned into rheumatic fever that damaged the valves of his heart.
"It was super shocking to go from playing to not at all," recalled Walls. "Do not take any day for granted because things can change that quick."
Walls was forced to the sidelines until his condition improved and that included missing the Canadian Club Championship in Saskatoon in May 2016.
"Watching my team from the bench was just devastating," said Walls. "I really wanted to be out there with them."
In July, he received the go-ahead to resume training in preparation for his final year of high school. Walls would still need to undergo surgery to clear up the lingering effects that the rheumatic fever had on his heart, but that was put off until the end of the volleyball season.
"It definitely crossed my mind that my volleyball career might be over," said Walls. "There were some sad moments for sure, but getting back on the court changed all that."
Photo: BU Bobcats
Walls did not miss a beat once he got back into action.
He was named an all-star at a high profile tournament in Saskatoon where he guided his Wakaw/Bellevue/Vonda Tropics to a bronze medal.
At provincials, Walls and his team reached the championship final for the second straight year and secured another silver medal.
Brandon coach Grant Wilson was impressed with Walls' quick turnaround despite all the adversity he has faced.
"If you look at what he has done over the last year and a bit and he has not been at 100 percent health. We like to think that since his surgery he is going to get healthier and continue to develop his game and only get better," said Wilson. "His physical demeanor on the court is really positive and he plays the game with a smile on his face and enjoys every minute of it. He just seems to have the confidence that you need to succeed regardless of the situation."
With the addition of Walls, the Bobcats recruiting class currently stands at two prospects with both being Saskatchewan standouts. He joins Carter Brodner of Regina as newcomers to the program for 2017-18 and Walls cannot wait to get started.
"I cannot even describe how happy I am going to be to wear the Bobcat jersey," said Walls. "It was super exciting to sign because after going through all this I did not even know if I was going to get the chance to play again. Being with the Bobcats is just unbelievable."