What Chris Shelton and his teammates did this year in Louisa County by making a run to the Class 4A basketball championship game, was undeniably special. It went beyond the court, uniting a community and fulfilling a dream shared by the team’s core that started playing together in middle school.
The fact that Shelton and the Lions could do that while Shelton also achieved another, parallel dream makes this winter’s run just a touch sweeter. In a sport where a lot of athletes transfer or move while pursuing different opportunities, Shelton did it all right at home.
“If you’re good enough, coaches come and find you, that’s what every coach says,” Shelton said. “Every coach in America would say that. Words can’t describe this feeling. That’s real special that you can sign in your hometown.”
That second dream came to fruition this week, when he went from Hampton offeree to signed Division I college basketball player in the span of just a few days. Shelton, the Class 4A state player of the year made things official with the Pirates, signing after a recruiting process that stretched into the final month of his senior season.
“It has been a process and every mentor, family member I’ve had has said trust the process,” Shelton said. “I’m truly blessed.”
Shelton averaged 23 points, seven rebounds and two steals per game as a senior, knocking down 39 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and another 85 percent at the free throw line.
One reason that the process took some time was that Shelton, a National Honor Society member, needed a school that was an academic fit in addition to being a spot to play basketball. He knew that from the start, so whenever any school came calling, he went to work.
“That question definitely comes up but the schools that were looking at me, the first thing I’d do is do my research,” Shelton said. “I’d done my own scouting. At some point, you’ve got to go back to that degree.”
Hampton ended up being that blend of basketball and academic opportunity. It didn’t hurt that the Pirates also have a straight-forward, honest coach who’s had a lot of success with three conference championships and in turn three NCAA tournament appearances in nine seasons.
“When I went on campus, coach (Buck) Joyner, he was real,” Shelton said. “He wasn’t trying to sell a dream, he was honest. He’s the type of coach that would tell you something you don’t want to hear. That’ll make me a better man and a basketball player in the long run.”
Shelton will try and build on that sweet stroke that did so much for the Lions at Hampton where he’ll come in as a shooting guard. With four senior guards graduating including a pair of starters, there’s going to be an opportunity for playing time.
Shelton will also come to Hampton with a well-established sense of team, of community after what Shelton, Jarett Hunter, Mark Carter, Xavien Hunter, Shylek Washington, Isaac Haywood and company pulled off. Shelton will carry with him a sense of pride in where he came from and how a program can do things the right way.
“Honestly, out of everything, that’s the most important,” Shelton said. “This is more than just one person. It’s bigger than you, this program has been going on for many years. We’ve been playing together since middle school, this was a dream. Every day we pushed each other in practice. Every guy on this team would say the same thing.”