January 13, 2014

Cape Hatteras graduate Paxton Gwin is winding
down her college basketball career with accolades


Each player on the women’s basketball team at Roanoke College in Salem, Va., has a unique story that led her to become a Maroon, but only one can claim that her journey began in the small village of Buxton on Hatteras Island.

Two-time Tideland Conference Player of the Year Paxton Gwin has not only conquered the challenges of playing competitive sports in a small, rural community, but has excelled throughout both her high school and college careers.

This was evident on Monday, Dec. 16, as Gwin accomplished the rare feat of scoring her 1,000th career point during a game against Maryville College.

Gwin’s three-pointer in the second half of the game catapulted her into an elite group, as she became the 16th player in Roanoke’s history to reach 1,000 points.

“I knew I had gotten it in the middle of the game,” she said.  “And it was pretty cool because I did it in high school and again in college.”

Though the event signified a personal achievement, Gwin attributed much of her success to her teammates and chose to memorialize the moment by snagging the game ball and getting her 14 teammates to sign it.

“My teammates are my favorite part of playing in college,” stated Gwin.  “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Gwin’s humble outlook on her success is deeply rooted in her upbringing and in the vast support system that nurtured and encouraged her career from the beginning.

“Paxton always had tremendous community support,” agreed her mother, Betsy Gwin.  “From the time she started playing basketball at the age of 5, she had wonderful volunteers and staff members at the Fessenden Center, really dedicated coaches in middle school and high school, and had teammates who supported her.”

And, although many opportunities, such as joining traveling teams and the Amateur Athletic Union, were unavailable to Paxton because of the remoteness of Hatteras Island, she received a more unconventional form of training when the young men of the community began inviting her to play in their games.

Paxton competed against men in their 20s and 30s, rather than young girls in her age range and benefitted from her unconventional training.

Betsy believes, “What were challenges when she was growing up turned out to be in her favor once she got to college and had prior experience playing with men.”

Overcoming these obstacles paid off in the end.

By her senior year of high school, Paxton was recruited to play basketball by several schools and possessed the self-discipline and work ethic that would be necessary to succeed as a collegiate athlete.

Despite encountering several obstacles, she has flourished as both a student, majoring in exercise science, and as a vital player since beginning at Roanoke College in 2010. 

She was initially challenged by her coach’s decision to switch her position from shooting guard to post-player, but has since adapted and succeeds in the position.

The transition into college basketball was eye opening for Gwin because it was vastly different than playing on a high school team with girls who were lifelong friends.

“When I came here, the team is a bunch of the best athletes from their schools,” recalled Paxton.  “You quickly realize that you’re not going to be the best player.”

Although playing in college has been riddled with a new set of obstacles to overcome, Paxton was able to draw strength and encouragement from her unwavering support system.

“It’s encouraging when my friends and family attend my games,” she said.  “It’s helpful knowing people that are at your games and it feels like you’re at home playing again.”

Folks throughout the community watch Paxton’s games online, check Facebook to keep abreast of her career, or drive to show their support in person.

Until his recent passing, she received messages before and after every game from Ted Eskildsen, the former coach of the boy’s basketball team at Cape Hatteras Secondary School.

And her parents have continued to watch every game, whether they are in attendance or viewing online, and have enjoyed seeing their daughter do what she loves.

“I think that Paxton is a product of a very supportive community and together with the hard work that she has put in, she’s been able to be very successful,” said Betsy.

She somehow strikes a balance among three-hour-long practices, daily classes, and exams while still managing to earn the title of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Player of the Week on Monday, Jan. 6.

As her final year as a Roanoke Maroon progresses, Paxton is faced with the possibility of playing basketball overseas or beginning the steps to become an occupational therapist.

Regardless of her chosen career path after college, Paxton Gwin’s passion for basketball will remain strong, just as her vast support system on Hatteras Island will continue to encourage her in her endeavors.

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