Working to break through

FORTVILLE — Mt. Vernon senior Sydney Shelton isn’t the type of player to shy away from her ambition.

A Class 3A state champion as a freshman in 2012-13, the point guard has been electric from Day 1. Difficult to contain, even harder to stop, Shelton had a plan in place long before she buried 29 points to lead the Marauders to their first state title.

With her recent verbal commitment to Butler University, the first step was taken.

“It feels great to have it done,” Shelton remarked on her college commitment. “Now, I can focus on the high school season and get the things I want done for the team and for me.”

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By picking Butler, Shelton will reunite with her aunt, Julie Shelton, who is an assistant coach for the Bulldogs’ women’s basketball program and the head coach responsible for Mt. Vernon’s championship season.

Shelton originally committed to Kentucky, but regardless of where she decided to lace up her sneakers, the production is sure to follow.

As a junior, she averaged a county-best 22.5 points per game and was deadly from beyond the arc for the 21-3 Marauders as she sank 63 attempts, again, the most in the county last season.

Her season high in 2014-15 was 33 points, scored in the the sectional semifinals at Mt. Vernon with 19 points falling in the fourth quarter as Shelton tried to rally her team to victory.{p dir=”ltr”}Unable to clinch the program’s first 4A sectional title, Shelton and the Marauders are locked in on two primary goals this winter: get over the 4A hump and keep their Hoosier Heritage Conference championship streak alive. Their current run stands at five straight.{p dir=”ltr”}In the meantime, the 5-foot-9 Shelton is eyeing the county’s all-time career scoring record set by Greenfield-Central’s Ellen Hamilton in 2002. Less than 400 points away from overtaking the crown, Shelton already put the plan in motion on Monday with a 29-point performance against Franklin.{p dir=”ltr”}The team captain added seven assists and nine rebounds to secure the team’s season-opening 58-55 victory, including hitting a pair of clutch free throws in the final seconds.{p dir=”ltr”}Already the program’s all-time leading scorer, Shelton entered the season with 1,491 points after averaging 18.6 points per game her first season and 20 points the second.{p dir=”ltr”}This past summer, Shelton was a member of the Indiana Junior All-Star core roster and helped guide her AAU team, the Indy Gym Rats, to the Nike National Championship game.{p dir=”ltr”}Now, she’s turning her attention to the Marauders’ 2015-16 season, an potential Indiana All-Star selection and the dream of wearing the prestigious red, white and blue No. 1 jersey by season’s end.

DR: This past summer, you were pretty positive about going to Kentucky. What made you switch and verbally commit to Butler last month?

Shelton: Really, it came down to the fact that Kentucky had a lot of guards. I’m from Indiana. Indianapolis is my home. Butler is not only a great basketball school, it’s part of the Big East, a big conference, and they’ve always been successful. I’m hoping to do something special there, but they are also a very strong academic school. If I’m going to get an education somewhere, I thought, might as well get it from Butler. That will benefit me once basketball ends.

And it’s here. My family and friends can come watch me play. I’ll have friends at IUPUI, UIndy, Marian, and even at Purdue and IU. So this will let me see my friends and family more often, which is important to me. It was definitely one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make in my life so far.

DR: How much of a factor was it that your aunt, Julie Shelton, is on the Butler coaching staff?

Shelton: It was because I played for her before and with coach (Kurt Godlevske) and (assistant) coach Damon (Bailey) are also being new there. Coach G and Damon both coached at Bedford, so I know them really well, too. I’ve been playing with and against them through AAU ball since I was probably in the third or fourth grade.

Not only do I know my aunt, obviously, but I know the rest of the coaching staff, which is really cool because they’re from Indiana. My aunt went to Butler, Damon went to IU, and Kurt, I’m pretty sure is from here. FahKara Malone is another assistant coach and she played at Purdue. I just think it’s really nice because I’m more familiar with these coaches then the Kentucky coaches, even though I loved them, too. The Butler coaching staff are Hoosiers, from here and played here, it’s really neat to be part of that.

DR: I understand you sustained an injury this offseason. What happened? Are you back to full health?

Shelton: At the end of July during AAU I fell on (my arm) and a girl fell on the outside of my (left) elbow and it hyper-extended. It’s been a long process, a little over three months since the injury, and I was just cleared last Friday. I’ve still been able to do some shooting and dribbling and stuff, and I’m getting back into the swing of things. It’s nice to get back on the floor.

DR: You have a realistic shot at challenging and owning the county’s all-time career scoring record this season. Is that something you even think about or do you keep it out of sight out of mind?

Shelton: I do think about it but not very often. Of course, I would love to accomplish that, but it’s not the first thing on my mind going into the season.

DR: What’s the No. 1 goal for you this season?

Shelton: I have a lot of them. Definitely to win a conference and a state championship, for me to be Miss Basketball. That’s a hard goal, but everyone’s been working toward that since they were little, so I’m not alone.

DR: How determined are you and the team to finally breakthrough in Class 4A this year? The last sectional title was in 3A. How are you going to clear the 4A hurdle this year?

Shelton: We have been making a few adjustments on and off the floor. Now, we’re used to it and the teams we’re going to be playing like the Lawrence Norths, the Bedford North Lawrences, the Homesteads, those big powerhouse schools that are really good 4A schools. We know that not only will it take hard work, but it really comes down to focus, which is something we’re honing in on. Focus is huge. You have to be focused to succeed in life.

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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.