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Shaniah Spells is accustomed to flying under the proverbial radar.
While her Hunt High varsity girls basketball teammates may be the ones piling up the points and garnering more mentions by the average observer, Spells was content doing the unpleasant work of rebounding and not missing assignments.
Coaches catch on to such things, and a school that prides itself in being one of the top offensive rebounding programs in all of NCAA Division III took notice.
Therefore, Spells recently confirmed her intention to study and play basketball at North Carolina Wesleyan of the USA South Athletic Conference. The Battling Bishops pulled down an average of 20 rebounds per game to tie for second nationally in Div. III, and their total offensive rebounds ranked inside the top 10.
“Wesleyan said that they’re top of the country in rebounding, and they want to stay that way,” Hunt head coach Tiffany Parks said. “When they look at girls, they look at, are they hitting the boards? They don’t have to be taught. She (NCWC head coach Artina J. Trader) said she expected her point guard to rebound. And that was really a big, big thing for Wesleyan.”
Parks sent film to Wesleyan coaches, who responded with on-campus visits. They were impressed with Spells’ tenacity inside, particularly during the Farris & Farris Holiday Tournament.
Spells pulled down an average of 3.4 rebounds for the Lady Warriors, who finished 22-4 en route to the best season in program history and the program’s second consecutive 3-A Big East Conference title. It was only the third league championship for the Lady Warriors.
Spells, who can rotate between the guard and forward positions, chose Wesleyan over interest from Catawba Valley Community College and Johnston Community College and expects to reprise her role as a defender and rebounder for the Battling Bishops. Although Division III institutions are not permitted to award athletic scholarships, Spells felt a bond with her future Wesleyan teammates that wasn’t necessarily in play at her other suitors.
“I felt comfortable,” she said. “Just be me. Just trying to be myself instead of going all out and messing up the game for everybody else.”
The daughter of Randy and Shannon Spells plans to major in criminal justice. Parks assured that Spells’ willingness to secure the ball will keep her in good graces at the next level.
“She gets in there, and it doesn’t bother her,” Parks said of Spells. “She doesn’t care, offense or defense and she’s going to try to get a rebound. (Wesleyan) said that’s so hard to teach — they said we can teach our girls plays and we can teach them how to score. But you can’t teach them that innate ability to just do it.”