By Mallory Allen, Mara Allen, Lindsey Gloede, and Abbi Pflum
“Passionate. Caring. Competitive.” According to one of her teammates, these are the three words that best describe Sydney Levy.
Having lived and breathed basketball for more than half of her life, 23-year-old Levy is now a fifth-year senior in her last season of collegiate basketball, unsure where life will take her next.
But Levy isn’t dwelling on the unknowns ahead of her; instead, she’s just enjoying the ride and making the most of every opportunity she gets.
High School Standout
Soccer was actually Levy’s chosen sport as a child; in fact, she didn’t even pick up a basketball until she was 10 years old when her father asked if she wanted to try it out. “He really got me into basketball, and I just fell in love with it. So, I switched sports and never looked back,” Levy explained.
Levy grew up in Oshkosh but attended Appleton North High School, where she had an exceptional prep career. Despite missing most of her sophomore campaign with a torn ACL, Levy helped lead the Lightning to consecutive WIAA Division I state titles in 2017 and 2018 and graduated as the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Levy racked up a number of prestigious accolades during her time at Appleton North. She was named All-USA Wisconsin Girls Basketball Player of the Year as a junior, and the following season she received First-Team All-State honors from the Associated Press (AP) and Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), as well as a McDonald’s All-American nomination.
But Levy said those individual awards didn’t mean as much to her as hoisting back-to-back gold balls with her team: “The biggest things I look back on and am proud of are those state championships.”
Making the Switch
Levy began her collegiate career with UWGB’s Horizon League rival UW-Milwaukee, making 14 total starts for the Panthers. However, she ultimately decided to transfer after her sophomore season.
“Going into college basketball, no one knows exactly what to expect. I was really excited to go to Milwaukee, and I enjoyed a lot of parts of my experience there, but ultimately it wasn’t the right fit for what I wanted for my career,” Levy said.
She decided on UW-Green Bay because of her familiarity with the program; Levy grew up attending women’s basketball games at the Kress Center, had been recruited by the coaching staff when she was younger, and several of her AAU teammates also played for the Phoenix.
“Because of that, I knew what I was getting myself into, and [UWGB] was closer to home too. I was very comfortable making the switch here… and I was really excited to join the winning culture.”
One More Year?
Throughout her junior and senior seasons, Levy was a consistent scoring threat and provided an important spark for the Phoenix, whether off the bench or as a starter. Then, after graduating from UW-Green Bay last spring with a degree in Secondary English Education, Levy was faced with a big question.
Hang up her shoes and bid farewell to her beloved sport? Or give college basketball one last go?
Unsurprisingly, Levy chose the latter and opted to use the fifth year of eligibility granted to student-athletes by the NCAA due to the coronavirus pandemic. “It was really a no-brainer for me. As soon as I knew we were getting an extra year, I said I was going to take it because I wasn’t ready to be done,” Levy said.
She is now a graduate student working on her Master’s degree in Applied Leadership for Teaching and Learning, with plans to become a teacher.
“It’s been a great season”
Levy has played an instrumental piece in her team’s success this season. The 5-foot-8 guard is leading the Phoenix in scoring (11.4 ppg), field goals made (115), and three-pointers (53) while shooting 86% from the free-throw line and 37% from beyond the arc.
According to Levy, the key to her offensive dominance thus far is simple: “I’m in my fifth year of college basketball, and ultimately this could be my last year ever of basketball. I know I’ve done as much as I can to prepare myself. I just go out there and be confident every day and give my team what they need from me.”
Kevin Borseth, head coach of UWGB’s women’s basketball team, said Levy is a special player. “Sydney is a winner. She works hard at what she does. She puts a lot of time in on the basketball floor honing her skills and her trade to get herself prepared to play. She’s not afraid of anything or anybody, of any competition. On the court, you have to deal with her, because she’s not going to back down to anybody. She’s going to continue to do what she does, come heck or high water,” Borseth said.
Borseth also praised Levy’s ability to make those around her better players: “Sydney relishes her role of carrying a team as a leader. Her teammates know that when you play with her, you’re going to get a level of high urgency and intensity. That rubs off on them.”
Callie Genke, who has played alongside Levy for the past two seasons, echoed similar sentiments. “Syd brings a lot of leadership, energy and competitiveness to our team. She always wants to be her best and for all of us to bring our best to every game and practice too,” Genke said.
A Major Milestone
On February 5, in UWGB’s conference win against Oakland University, Levy secured her spot in Phoenix basketball history as she scored her 1000th collegiate point.
“It was really exciting when it happened. I had no idea I was close [to 1000]. I didn’t know until my dad told me. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it,” Levy said. “But I’m very competitive, so it was definitely a big milestone to hit.”
Borseth agreed, saying the achievement is a testament to Levy’s work ethic and drive to succeed. “That’s a tough milestone to reach; a lot tougher than meets the eye… so I was very excited for her. She worked hard for it.”
However, Levy said she’s more focused on the team’s success than her own accomplishments. “I’m just really excited about how our team is performing. This year has been super fun. We’ve all come together and we’re playing so well right now. It’s been a great season.”
With only two games remaining in the regular season, UWGB (22-4, 16-2) sits atop the Horizon League in a tie for first place with Cleveland State, with a conference championship and an NCAA tournament run on the line.
That is Levy’s main focus right now – but with the end of her collegiate career in sight, she’s also looking toward the future. “I know I want to coach at some point and teach in high-poverty, high-needs schools. That’s a passion of mine,” Levy said. She hasn’t ruled out playing basketball overseas, but said it will depend on how her body feels.
As Levy’s time with the Phoenix comes to a close, Genke said she would not be easily replaced.
“Sydney has great energy and is competitive in every practice and game. She’s there to push everyone to be their best. Syd is also somebody you can always go talk to if you have any questions about basketball or life,” said Genke. “She’s always been there for us. We’ll miss her a lot.”
One Comment to “Levy on Enjoying Her Final Ride as a Phoenix: “This Year Has Been Super Fun””
Great lead, team!