Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Duke "Total Package" Still Attracts Future Star

(Guru’s Note: Stephen K. Lee, a Rutgers journalism major who was involved with coverage of the women’s basketball team last season, is currently a summer intern at a paper in Erie, Pa., in the vicinity of several prized high school prospects involved with national programs. This is his first of several reports.)

By Stephen K. Lee

SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio — When Gail Goestenkors traded her Durham blue for Austin burnt orange, some might have thought Duke’s attractiveness to top prospects left with her from North Carolina for the Longhorns’ program in Texas.

Not Shay Selby.

For the 5’9” senior point guard from Regina High School here, Duke offers more than just its renowned women’s basketball program that flourished during Goestenkors’ 15-year tenure.

In addition to playing basketball, Selby wants to go to medical school and considers Duke a perfect fit for her.

“I’ve pretty much wanted to go there since I was little,” she said. “The basketball team is obviously great, but the academics are great too. So I thought of it as a full package.”

Ranked as the No. 5 guard in the nation by Scout.com and the No. 1 point guard by Hoopgurlz.com, Selby drew interest from just about every program imaginable but committed to the Blue Devils last October because of her lifelong desire to go there.

But as one could imagine, the news of Goestenkors leaving in April was initially disappointing, even for Selby.

“I was a little upset at first,” Selby said. “Then I had to put myself in her shoes. For that much money I probably would’ve done the same. But I still respect her.”

Over the years, the Duke women’s basketball program has consistently produced some of the best guards in the game.

From Georgia Schweitzer (’01) to Alana Beard (’04) to Lindsay Harding (’07), the Blue Devils have made a habit of ensuring that the torch of excellence is passed on from one star’s four-year term to the next’s.

Even though she won’t have the same coach as the aforementioned Blue Devil legends, Selby might become the next Duke superstar in the 2008-09 season.

New coach Joanne P. McCallie had previously recruited Selby heavily in her former role as head coach of Michigan State. Her familiarity with the young guard and the system she brings to Duke may result in continued success for a program that won a whopping 80 percent of its games under Goestenkors.

“(McCallie) usually plays with like two or three point guards on the floor on the same time, so that’s good for me since that’s the position I play,” Selby said. “I know at the conference (Big Ten) she was in, she played a lot of zone, so that kind of worried me.

“But she said she’s moving to the ACC, a little faster pace – she only had to do that because she was in a slower conference.”

Though Selby describes her playing style as “Allen Iverson – except not as much shooting,” McCallie and her assistants at Duke can rest easy knowing that she differs greatly from the former Sixers icon in one important aspect: practice.

Practice? Yes, we’re talking about practice.

Selby, who enjoys playing chess and cooking as off-court activities, has been playing basketball since the third grade. Her father served as her AAU basketball coach up until this year. Like Earl Woods, and Derek Jeter’s parents, Selby’s father has been very involved with helping her develop her skills.

“My dad holds practices like two or three times a week with a whole bunch of people,” Selby said. “We do dribbling, passing, shooting – the whole works.”

Pat Diulus, varsity basketball coach at Regina, says that Selby’s maturity, confidence and multi-faceted style of play will help her at the next level.

“The mark of a great player is she makes other players better,” said Diulus, a coach who has eight Ohio state championships to his credit. “And that’s what Shay’s capable of doing. Her versatility – and I think that’s what Duke saw in her – is the fact that she can play the point where she distributes the ball, she can score the ball, and she can give it to the right people.”

Diulus and his Regina Royals won the state championship in 2005 when Selby was just a freshman. Entering his 23rd year in coaching, his squads have produced 61 Division I athletes, two National Players of the Year, and one USA Today Player of the Year.

Diulus considers Selby among the best he’s ever coached and believes that a large part of her success on the court is a result of her focus and determination as a student.

He believes Selby’s desire to study medicine and steadfastness with her goals in life demonstrate a level of maturity not seen too often these days.

“Let’s face it, if there’s no WNBA when she graduates or there’s no overseas basketball or whatever, what’s she going to rely on? She’s going to rely on her academic prowess.”

With her future seemingly settled (the letter of intent has not yet been signed, so the commitment is not set in stone), Selby looks forward to taking on the role of the senior leader for the Royals and working towards another state championship.

“I kind of see (being a senior on the team) as an honor,” she said. “Everybody kind of comes up to me and asks me questions. Fitting into the senior role, like whenever I was younger, I knew I always looked up to the seniors and thought of them as role models.”

Even though her senior year hasn’t started yet, by sticking to her word and remaining loyal to Duke despite its vast changes, Selby has already taken steps toward becoming a role model.

STEPHEN K. LEE can be reached at steve485@gmail.com

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