Shakyla Wilson’s journey to Oklahoma Wesleyan University began in a small town in southern Oklahoma.
The Indiahoma, Oklahoma, native had a harsh life growing up. She says herself that she’s come a long way since she was little. It wasn’t until a particularly rough patch in her high school years that she found a relationship with God, and that relationship quickly changed her life’s trajectory.
Wilson was hungry to grow in her relationship with God, and with the end of her high school years looming, she desired to find a place that would allow her to build up that relationship.
“I had an amazing sports director,” she said, “and we sat down and talked, figuring out what I wanted to do.”
That sports director, a man named Cedric Sunray, searched for small Christian schools that would allow Wilson to continue to play basketball while also providing her with a Christian atmosphere. Sunray found OKWU, which checked Wilson’s boxes – a strong athletics program and a deeply Christian environment.
Wilson toured the campus two different times, making sure that it was a good fit for her. It was – she wanted a smaller campus, having grown up in a small town and attending a small high school, and she felt OKWU was the place.
“It was just the right feeling,” she said.
Wilson is a nursing major, and her interest in nursing goes back to when she was very young. Wilson comes from a large family, and one of her aunts had some complications with a pregnancy while Wilson was a child. Being around that experience instilled in her a calling to help newborn babies and mothers who might go through similar experiences as her aunt.
Of course, another aspect that drew Wilson to OKWU was the opportunity to play basketball. She’s a freshman for first-year head coach Heidi Messer, who says Wilson is already standing out.
“She’s the kind of player and teammate that you want in your program,” Messer said of Wilson. “She embraces the program values and truly wants to be a coachable member and teammate that adds value every day.”
Wilson has found a new family as part of the basketball team.
“The support, the chemistry, and the family aspect of it is huge for me,” she said. “I love it. It makes me feel like I belong here.”
Wilson, who has Chickasaw, Deer Creek, and Seminole heritage, is the first of her family to attend college. She was adopted by her grandparents when she was younger, and she understands the opportunity in front of her.
“I want to make my grandparents proud. There’s definitely pressure, but I always have so much support.”
Even though she has only been on campus for a few months, Wilson believes that her decision to come to OKWU was the right one.
“It was simple and comfortable here, like home.”
Coach Messer sees a bright future for her freshman.
“She’s focused on her goals on and off the court,” she said. “Her growth is happening quickly because of her work ethic and commitment.”
That work ethic will no doubt serve her well as she continues to chase her goals – as a basketball player, a future nurse, and a follower of Christ.