Northwestern's Kelia Shelton got a kick out of the talk that was making the rounds last season.
Shelton jumped into varsity basketball as a freshman and immediately started lighting it up. The question most Lady Trojans fans had on their minds concerned just how many points she could score.
There were those who compared her to Ivory Latta, the former York guard who rewrote the girls' record book in South Carolina, including a 70-point game in the third round of the playoffs.
Latta was named National Girls Player of the Year and played in the McDonald's All-Star Game. She had a sterling four years at North Carolina and was a rookie this season for the WNBA's Detroit Shock.
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Shelton laughed when reminded about all the talk last year. She heard it, but never paid it a bit of attention.
Shelton is a very good player and knows Latta was a once-in-a-lifetime player.
But she does possess similarities. Like Latta did, she handles the ball well, can pull up and hit the 3-pointer and creates opportunities for her teammates when she penetrates the lane. Maybe she'll drop 70 some night before she's finished, but Shelton's not about points.
"I didn't pay attention to any of the talk,'' Shelton said. "I was trying to stay focused so I could help my team, and I'd rather have more assists than points.
"My favorite part of basketball is driving inside and dishing the ball to an open teammate for a basket. When I can drive, it opens up the outside for our guards. I made a lot of 3-pointers last year and it was because teams we were playing realized we had strong players inside.''
Shelton, a 5-foot-6 point guard, averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and two steals per game last year. She shot an outstanding 57 percent from the field.
When it was time to try out last year, Shelton had no designs on going out for the ninth-grade or JV teams. She averaged 18 points as an eighth-grader at Rawlinson Road Middle School and wanted to bypass the two lower teams and play with the older girls.
Shelton stuck and won a starting job after playing well in Northwestern's scrimmages.
Bill Warren coached the girls' team last year. He stepped down after one season because he was named Northwestern's athletics director.
"She had all the skills necessary to play varsity last year,'' Warren said. "We saw she had good size, good speed, shot the ball well, handled it well and had a knowledge of the game.
"I knew right away I'd be wasting her time and mine by sending her down. A good player makes her teammates better and that's what she did for us last year. Kelia raised the level of all our games because she has a great competitive nature.''
Shelton grew up playing against her brother, Jonathon Shelton, a defensive back on the Trojans' football team, and other boys from her neighborhood. They'd roll their portable goal out to the street and spend hours beating on each other.
She said it made her tough and helped her get good at handling and passing the ball. It also helped her shooting touch. She learned to launch the ball from the outside over the bigger, taller guys.
She also competes for Northwestern's track team, running the 100, 200, 4x100 and long jumping.
She had her career-high with 25 points against rival Rock Hill last season.
Shelton wasn't alone in helping turn the Lady Trojans' program around. Last year's team had other good players, including Ashley McCoy, who graduated, and Mary Kate DuBard, back for her senior season.
The turnaround was noticed after Northwestern made the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. When this year's South Carolina Basketball Coaches preseason poll was released last week, Northwestern was No. 8 in Class AAAA.
"That's good, but now we have to go out and prove we deserve to be there,'' Shelton said. "We are proud people have noticed what we've accomplished and that we are headed in the right direction.
"It's basketball, and I love to play. I can't quite touch the rim yet, but I'm getting there. Might even be able to dunk one day. If they change it to counting for three points, then I'll try a little harder to do it.''
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