Jylen Petty dedicated his senior basketball season to his late mother

Published: May. 14, 2020 at 5:17 PM EDT
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Washington High School senior forward Jylen Petty always wore his passion on his sleeve for the Panthers.

"I just wanted to prove to everyone that I am a great player," Petty said. "I really just had something to prove."

He proved it right when he stepped through the doors at Washington High School, earning a spot on varsity as a freshman.

"Going to Washington, I went from a boy to a man in my eyes," Petty said. "I came to a high school where nothing was given to me. I had to earn everything."

Jylen learned that earned not given mentality from his mother, Sonja.

"She taught me a lot of things about being a man and I grew up a lot," Petty said.

Jylen had to grow up even more on Nov. 13, 2019.

"I kinda had a feeling that something bad had happened but I didn't want to think that way," Petty said. "When I got to the hospital and received the news it was pretty heartbreaking. It was really hard to get over."

Sonja Petty died from kidney failure. She was 48 years old. It was the first day of basketball practice for Jylen's senior season.

"My mom has a very powerful impact on my life," Petty said. "I still think about her all the time, like every single day."

Jylen thought about her before every game too. He wrote her name on his basketball shoes and looked at her picture before tip off.

"She was always there for me when no one else was," Petty said. "She was always there."

Sonja was even there for Jylen on senior night, one of the most emotional days of his life.

"It was a day I really wasn't looking forward to," Petty said. "I didn't want to participate. It was too sad for me. When it finally happened, all my emotions came through and my coach told me everything is going to be fine. She's watching over me."

That extra presence is a feeling Jylen will always hold onto.

"I love it," Petty said. "When I feel like she's watching me, it makes me play ten times harder cause I'm playing for her."

Jylen has received four offers to play college basketball. He hasn't made up his mind yet but wherever he decides to play, Jylen knows his mother will be proud of him.