Hoopster’s final year of play prepares her for youth-work career

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There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2014-15 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight these players

This week: Gopher senior basketball player Shae Kelley

Shae Kelley’s goal this season is to help the Golden Gophers make the NCAAs for the

Shae Kelley Photo by Charles Hallman
Shae Kelley Photo by Charles Hallman

first time since 2009. But her overall goal aims for a more lasting impact.

“When I go back home [to Denver, Colo.], I want to build a 24-hour [youth] center, more for teenagers or college students when they come home, where we can play or give them something to do late at night — give kids something to do and stay off the streets,” pledges Kelley.

After earning her bachelor’s degree at Old Dominion last spring, Kelley transferred to Minnesota and enrolled in the school’s youth development leadership master’s degree program.  When completed, which she expects to do later this year, Kelley will be able “to work with all type of youth,” she predicts.

Since ODU didn’t have a similar program, Kelley shopped around and eventually found the U of M. “I looked into the program a little bit and it interested me,” she recalls. The 6’-1” forward became first-year Gopher Head Coach Marlene Stollings’ first signee. Kelley was a 2014 All-Conference USA first-teamer and surpassed the 1,000-point career mark in only two seasons at her former school.

As a result, Kelley, the team’s second-leading scorer, is using her final year of playing eligibility — she played two seasons at a junior college, then two at ODU, and now with the Gophers. She was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Nov. 24 after averaging over 20 points in two non-conference wins.

More importantly, Kelley is continuing her scholarly pursuits.

“It’s a one-year program,” continues the fifth-year senior. “It has been what I expected. Even a little bit better than I expected. The program [is] is very open, and the classes I’m taking now, it’s more a teacher and student [setting]” as opposed to the traditional college class set-up.

“It’s nice to have that fifth year and not have such a heavy workload” of classes, says Kelley. With her master’s degree, she says she soon will be better prepared “to write grants to get money and work with youth of different cultures. I always enjoyed working with kids,” especially teens, she says.

“I think it would be great for me to give back.”

Gopher women no pushovers

The Gophers (14-2, 3-1), although they suffered their first conference defeat Sunday to first-place Maryland, showed the season’s largest crowd (5,468) that their record isn’t a fluke. “We proved that we can play on the same plane Maryland (13-2, 4-0) plays on,” said U of M Sophomore Center Amanda Zahui B., who was named the Big Ten Player of the Week two straight weeks, and espnW National Player of the Week last week.

Terrapins Coach Brenda Frese told the MSR after Sunday’s contest that Minnesota and the rest of the Big Ten is tougher than when she was the Gophers coach (2001-02). “When you talk about from top to bottom, it’s tremendous from top to bottom. There are no easy games,” she points out.

Wolves now too young? 

“We are making mistakes, but I think we are getting better every day,” says second-year Minnesota Timberwolves Center Gorgui Dieng. Nonetheless, at press time the team has lost 15 straight contests. “I say to myself, ‘What can we do to improve?’”

“We know we were not going to make the playoffs,” adds Wolves Assistant Coach Sam Mitchell. “We have a bunch of veteran guys, but once they got hurt, [we had to] play the young guys” such as Dieng.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.