Shooting for the Stars

RICHMOND — Motivation is a given for Sydney Shelton. A relentless worker with instinctive tunnel vision whenever the time calls for focus, Mt. Vernon’s all-time leading scorer is successful on and off the basketball court for those very reasons.

This week, however, toning out distractions just happened to be an unexpected bonus.

“My phone is broken,” Shelton said with a playful sigh. “I’ve been using my mom’s.”

In smartphone limbo during Indiana All-Star Basketball week, Shelton isn’t distraught by her lack of mobile connectivity or inability to check her Twitter feed. Her mind is preoccupied. The sharp-shooting guard has more important matters at hand, like holding her own against the state’s best senior players as one of six Junior Indiana All-Stars selected to the core group.

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“I’ve always looked forward to this ever since I was little and watched the older girls play. This is where I’ve always wanted to be,” Shelton said. “I’m just trying to bring whatever I can to the table, and I think I’m doing a good job of that so far.”

Inside Richmond’s Tiernan Center on Monday night, the future Kentucky Wildcat made her intentions clear.

Finishing the first of two exhibition games against the 2014-15 Indiana All-Stars with 10 points in 21 minutes, including a pinpoint 3-pointer to punctuate the first half’s final seconds, her declaration from 19 feet, 9 inches out simply echoed her already renown forte.

“She’s a great player,” Greenfield-Central head coach and Junior All-Star assistant Doug Laker said. “I think these games are statements. It’s for Miss Basketball and for making the all-star team next year. There’s a lot talent out there. It’s time for them to show that they can compete.”

Shelton has done just that from the first day she burst onto the scene as a freshman three years ago.

One of the offensive weapons on Mt. Vernon’s state championship team in 2012-13, the guard raised eyebrows with a 29-point performance against rival Hamilton Heights in the Class 3A title game.

She averaged 18.6 points per game her first season and 20 points the second. As a junior, she led Hancock County in scoring (22.5 ppg), free-throw percentage (87.4) and 3-pointers made (63).

In three seasons, the 5-foot-9 guard amassed a program-best 1,491 points in her career. With one more campaign left, Shelton needs to score only 395 points to overtake Greenfield-Central’s Ellen Hamilton (2002) as the county’s most prolific scorer in girls basketball history.

“I think that would be a great milestone. I’d like to make that,” Shelton said. “But if I don’t that’s all right, too.”

Goals for the future, she emphasized, along with “hopefully” capping off her four-year journey by winning another state championship — this time in the “big school” division.

For now, though, or at least this week, there’s nothing more enticing than the potential of red, white and blue of Indiana All-Star distinction, the coveted No. 1 jersey and team bonding.

“Obviously, Miss Basketball is a dream,” Shelton admitted. “There are a lot of talented players in our class, so I know that will be hard for all of us.

“We’re all working hard to be the best we can be, and we love playing with each other, so hopefully we are (Indiana) All-Stars (next year). I think we’re going to be happy with whomever gets (Miss Basketball) because we know how hard we’ve all worked to earn that.”

Regardless of how it plays out, the race for Miss Basketball in 2015-16 could be a memorable one based on credentials alone.

Lawrence North forward Ae’Rianna Harris, a 6-foot-2 Purdue recruit, is ranked 12th at her position by ProspectsNation.com. Princeton’s Jackie Young is heading to Notre Dame and rated seventh overall in the class of 2016 with an impressive 32.4 points per game average.

Heritage Christian’s Tyasha Harris is ranked 10th in her class by ESPN and is a two-time Class 2A state champion. Kristen Spolyar, a 5-10 Butler commit, carries a 32.2 scoring average. Shelton’s longtime friend (through AAU) and future Kentucky teammate Lindsey Corsaro of Roncalli is considered the fourth-best wing in her class by ProspectNation.

Shelton was ranked as the 30th-best junior in the nation by All-Star Girls Report and upheld it by complementing Young’s team-high 15 points in Richmond as the seniors won 78-63.

The Juniors will look to even the series against the Indiana All-Stars today at Columbus North in the final girls/boys exhibition doubleheader, beginning at 6 p.m.

“It’s a big stage. There are a lot of people watching,” said Corsaro, who is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament this offseason. “It’s a great opportunity to get your name out there and show what you can do, but also to show you can play with a team and play together.”

Shelton is trying to do all three and a little bit more.

“These players are being asked to be put in different positions. That’s tough to do for some, but they need to get used to it,” Laker said. “At the next level, it’s going to be that way. Everyone is going to average 23 to 24 points a game. You’re going to be the screener and not always receive the screen. It’s about the intangibles.

“What’s great thing about her is she does everything well. She shoots off the dribble. She shoots set shots, defends well, competes well. But the best thing is she’s a great kid.”

Scoreline

Indiana All-Stars Exhibition Series

at Richmond (Monday)

Indiana Girls All-Stars 78, Indiana Junior All-Stars 63

Juniors;21;42;63

All-Stars;30;48;78

Juniors (pts): Jackie Young 15, Sydney Shelton 10, Jayla Scaife 8, Kristen Spolyar 6, Alexis Shannon 6, Cameron Onken 4, Ae’Rianna Harris 3, Aliyah Walker 2.

All-Stars (pts): Ali Patberg 18, Jenna Allen 12, Victoria Gaines 10, Darby Maggard 9, Brittany Ward 7, Zuri Sanders 6, Jordyn Frantz 4, Dominique McBryde 4, Madeline Raster 3, Tori Schickel 2, Alexa Bailey 2, Michal Miller 1.

Junior All-Stars (Core Group)

The Indiana Junior All-Star Core Group

Name;school;Ht.;PPG;College choice

Ae’Rianna Harris;Lawrence North;6-2;9.6;Purdue

Jackie Young;Princeton;6-0;32.4;Notre Dame

Tyasha Harris;Heritage Christian;5-10;17.5;undecided

Kristen Spolyar;Lebanon;5-10;32.2;Butler

Lindsey Corsaro;Roncalli;6-0;22.4;Kentucky

Sydney Shelton;Mt. Vernon;5-9;22.5;Kentucky

By the numbers

Shelton’s place in history

29: Total points scored by Sydney Shelton in 2012-13 Class 3A championship game in Terre Haute against Hamilton Heights to lead Marauders to first state title.

63: Number of 3-pointers Shelton buried in her junior campaign en route to averaging 22.5 points per game. She led the county in 3-pointers made in 2014-15.

19: Points put up in the fourth quarter by Shelton in her attempt to rally the Marauders back against Richmond in the sectional semifinals last year. 

33: Season-high points total last season.

394: The number that separates Shelton from tying Greenfield-Central’s Ellen Hamilton (2002) as Hancock County’s all-time career leading scorer in girls basketball.

1: Her placement in Mt. Vernon girls basketball history in scoring. She currently sits at 1,491 career points. The previous leader was Johna Goff at 1,369 set in 2000.

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Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at rtorres@greenfieldreporter.com or 317-477-3227.