Zack Menchel, Daily Evergreen Sports
PULLMAN, Wash. For Washington State senior D.J. Shelton, the road to success has not always been a clear-cut path.
Shelton, bounced around four different California area high schools, redshirted for Cal State Fullerton, and played one season for Citrus College before finally landing on his feet at WSU in 2011. He arrived with just three years of playing eligibility left.
“I’ve overcome a lot of adversity, hate, and negative energy towards me,” said Shelton. “I got past it the only way I knew how, with a lot of grinding and working hard.”
He said coming to WSU allowed him the chance to be featured in a big basketball program whilst letting him get away from Los Angeles to improve his gear and get his mind in the right place.
With just one game remaining in his collegiate playing career, it has become obvious to both Shelton and those around him that he has undergone a great deal of growth in Pullman, both physically and mentally.
“I like the fact that he’s matured on and off the court, and grown up so much as a person the last few years,” said WSU head coach Ken Bone.
“He had a few things personality wise that he needed to work on and there were a couple bumps in the road but all in all, throughout all the programs that I’ve coached over the years, he might be one of the most improved people I’ve seen.”
During a span of three seasons in Pullman, the fifth-year senior added more than 30 pounds of mass to his once slight frame.
In fact, Shelton made an effort to hit the weight room harder than he ever did before after WSU’s first round exit from the Pac-12 Tournament at the hands of interstate rival Washington last season.
Since then, the added weight has made the Cougars big man a force to be reckoned with on the boards. Shelton leads WSU with 261 total boards and his 9.3 rebounds per game is currently good for second in the Pac-12.
“The weight I added has definitely helped me more with rebounding and finishing in the paint this season,” said Shelton.
WSU head coach Ken Bone indicated that the 6’10 Shelton always had the ability to be a great rebounder but it was a specific area he wanted him to focus on.
“He’s quicker than a lot of the other big guys, a good athlete, and we needed him to rebound,” said Bone.
“He’s taken to that role and really embraced it because he’s one of the leading rebounders in the Pac-12 and that’s quite an achievement.”
Shelton has quite the athletic pedigree with multiple members of his family tree experiencing success at both the collegiate and professional level in both football and basketball.
Most notably is his uncle Lonnie Shelton who enjoyed a 10-year career in the NBA with the Knicks, Supersonics, and Cavaliers.
Despite the obvious mark the Shelton family has made on the wide world of sports, D.J. said he doesn’t see any of it as a particular advantage to himself.
“Well, maybe being blessed with good genes helped,” Shelton said with a laugh.
Shelton said his whole family supports him and wishes him well but his greatest sports mentor has actually been his mother.
“I talk to her almost every day and she helps me out and keeps my head in gear,” he said.
“She lets me know when I’m doing bad and also how proud of me she is when I’m doing well and that keeps me going.”
Shelton will play his final game as a Cougar at Beasley Coliseum on Saturday against UCLA.
He indicated that the days when Beasley featured packed stands, especially against U-Dub, were among his most memorable moments in college.
After graduating from the basketball program and WSU as a whole, Shelton said there is absolutely no doubt he’d like to take his talents to the NBA and preferably for his hometown Lakers or Clippers in order to better provide for his family and himself.
If the NBA does not work out, Shelton said he would either get his masters and go to law school or become a sports agent.
“I think WSU has made me into a responsible man and prepared me well in both basketball and life,” said Shelton.
“It’s been a real tough final season but it taught me that things won’t always go my way.”