Shumpert makes most of opportunity

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

Eastern women’s basketball junior guard Alece Shumpert played just 22 minutes this season until she came off the bench in

Alece Shumpert, a junior guard, looks to pass Saturday during the game against Southeast Missouri State in Lantz Arena. The Panthers won 49-48.
Dominic Baima
Alece Shumpert, a junior guard, looks to pass Saturday during the game against Southeast Missouri State in Lantz Arena. The Panthers won 49-48.

the game against Austin Peay Feb. 12.

Shumpert played 25 minutes that game and shot 6-of-9 from the floor, including 5-of-6 from three-point range in the loss.

She said she had no idea that she was going to play in the near future and playing that much just came out of the blue.

“I am happy for it,” Shumpert said. “The last couple of games have been great as far as playing time. It feels good to be on the court and compete against others in the efforts of helping my team.”

The 18-point night got her a starting nod against Murray State six days later. The start would be her first start of her colligate career.

She had no prior notion she would start the game until Eastern coach Debbie Black told her at shoot around.

“I was very shocked and surprised to know that I would start,” she said. “I knew that I had to perform and be an asset to my team at that point.”

Shumpert would put up 11 points in 27 minutes played on 3-of-7 shooting in the game.

She hit a clutch 3-point shot with about one minute to play in the second half to put the Panthers up by four in the win against Southeast Missouri Saturday.

“I just ended up in the right place at the right time,” Shumpert said. “I knew we needed to score and no one was guarding me at the time, so I just shot it and thank goodness it went in.”

Shumpert did not discover she could be a shooter, let alone a 3-point shooter until her senior year of high school at Althoff Catholic in Belleville.

She has played basketball since fifth grade and has played the post position most of her life.

Black said the biggest reason why Shumpert has gotten an opportunity is because of the work ethic in practice.

“I think she has been terrific, and she was terrific when she wasn’t playing,” Black said. “She was beating us up in practice. She was making three’s all over the court. I tell all these players, especially the young ones, their game is practice. You have to show us what you can do in practice and there will be an opportunity to get into a game at some point and she’s done terrific with that.”

Freshman guard Grace Lennox thinks having Shumpert out on the floor makes the offense a lot better. Whether it would be helping Eastern forward Sabina Oroszova or anyone else on the court, Shumpert causes problems for the defense.

“The fact that Alece is such a 3-point weapon helps us a lot with our offense,” Lennox said. “If the defense is to double ‘Sabi’, she can find Alece for the shot. If they don’t double her, ‘Sabi’ has more room to move and make her moves.”

Lennox, along with other players, has noticed the work ethic Shumpert has put in practice this season.

“Alece has always worked hard during practices and made everyone else better players,” she said. “She is a great teammate to have. Her shot is second to none, which has earned her playing time.”

Shumpert has a setback last season when in practice she tore her ACL around the fourth game of the season.

Overcoming that injury has been a challenge for her she said.

“I overcame it by staying positive and having a strong mentality with the intention of getting back on the court as soon as possible,” she said.

Shumpert rehabbed for six months and is still rehabbing everyday to keep her leg strength up, and she said it was pretty tough.

“It’s definitely a long process,” she said. “You have to be mentally strong. I feel as best as ever actually. My knee is holding up well.”

Shumpert currently has a brace on her right knee.

Black doesn’t think the knee injury has been a problem for Shumpert this year due to the fact that she has had a long time to rehab.

Black said Shumpert is the first kid in the gym everyday and she has done all the right things.

“What most impressed me is the ability to stay within her game,” she said. “She is a shooter. She is not trying to do too much. Like last year even she wouldn’t get into too many games, and in practice she was trying to do too much. She has grown up. When she gets into the game, she is poised. She looks terrific.”

Shumpert and the Panthers will take on Tennessee-Martin Wednesday at Lantz Arena at 6 p.m.

Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].