This archived article was written by: Shala Pitchforth
College of Eastern Utah’s men’s basketball team experienced a devastating last minute loss to Howard University March 19 in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. The next night they came out flat, uninspired, lethargic and downright awful, scoring only 16 points in the first half.
While his team seemed down and out, CEU’s Leon Sutton was determined to at least come home with a third-place finish. With his last minute shot, Sutton forced the game into overtime and the Eagles found a way to win. His energy, talent and final basket woke up his team who finally played like champions in the overtime minutes.
Leon recalled what happened that night. “Everyone was down from the tough loss against Howard. We came out slow and sluggish, no one wanted to play.
In the second half we were down by 15 points. Coach Chris Craig gave me the opportunity to play; I took the most of the opportunity. I didn’t want to finish fourth so I had to pick my team up and get everyone excited to play hard.
“We started making our run, everyone got fired up. The score was 52-50 them [Navarro], I gave the ball to Mike (Glover), who gave it back to me. I drove and (Jonathon) Mills sealed his guy, everybody did their job. I felt an open shot so I shot a floater and it went in.”
Sutton credits his game-winning shot to the countless hours he spent in the gym shooting baskets with Chelsea Warburton. His bucket sent the CEU Eagles into overtime where they finally came out victorious, defeating Navarro College 65-61.
This was Sutton’s third year at CEU, he has made it a positive experience for not only himself but those around him.
Assistant Coach Brad Barton said Sutton is one of the greatest players he has ever had the privilege to coach. “Leon wants to play and is dedicated and hard-working just like everyone else, but he supports every one of his teammates. It didn’t matter if his best friend played over him in his same position, he was always there cheering his teammate on. That is very rare to find in a player.”
Sutton expressed how grateful he is to his coaches for this opportunity he has been given. He added, “Thanks to my team for believing in me.”
He is from Las Vegas, Nev., where he graduated from Spring Valley High School. He articulated how close he is with his family, especially his sister Logan. He said he has many fond childhood memories, but his favorite memories consist of playing basketball at the Boys and Girls Club everyday with cousin Darington Hobson.
Hobson is an All-American player from CEU who was Player of the Year at the Mountain West Conference this year where he played for New Mexico. He is very close to Sutton. They talk to each other regularly and often exchange basketball stories.
Other than basketball, one of Sutton’s biggest passions is music. He can be seen throughout campus with his headphones in enjoying, singing and dancing to music; always with a smile on his face.
Another passion of Sutton’s is being with his best friends. He wanted to thank Abel, D-K, Tony, Chris and his little sister Logan for always supporting him.
After his reign at CEU, Sutton desires to go on and play basketball. His ambition and goal is to further his education and get a degree in criminal justice. Sutton said there is no better way to do this then by playing basketball and getting his education paid for.
Basketball has taught him a lot, and he loves playing. He wanted to leave this advice for other young athletes, “never let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Never be defeated.”
Coach Craig said, “Leon Sutton is a class individual. He does things the right way in every part of his life. Leon has represented our himself, our team, the college and the community the right way for the last three years we will dearly miss Leon and what he brought to all of us.
“For it to be Leon that led us in the third place game is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. He is one of the hardest working players I have ever been around and he is proof that hard work pays off.
“I wish Leon the best in the future in academics, life and basketball.”