- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
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FRESNO, Calif. -- Shay Selby's basketball story isn't exactly storybook, but if it had a storybook ending, she'd be OK with that.
Selby is the lone senior starter for Duke, and one of only two seniors on the team. The guard is the only player on the roster who was recruited by previous coach Gail Goestenkors and not brought in by current coach Joanne P. McCallie (although McCallie recruited her while she was at Michigan State).
Selby has played behind Abby Waner and Jasmine Thomas and Karima Christmas, a succession of outstanding guards who more than earned their time. She has dealt with injuries, including a knee injury that required surgery after her freshman season and ankle surgery following her junior season.
She's also had her share of conflict with McCallie, and was suspended five games earlier this season for a violation of team rules.
"I've had my ups and downs," Selby said outside the Duke locker room Saturday night, a night with a definite "up" quality to it.
Selby led the way in Duke's 74-47 Sweet 16 win over St. John's with a career-high 18 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals. It was the first time this season Selby had led her team in scoring. She is averaging 11.7 points a game in the NCAA tournament and has hit 56 percent of her shots in the past three games. Her suddenly potent offensive game has helped second-seeded Duke find an offensive groove that has served it well through the tournament and will be necessary in Monday night's regional final against top-seeded Stanford (ESPN/ESPN3, 9 p.m. ET).
"She's just a warrior, a warrior in every sense of the word," McCallie said. "This is the kind of basketball she's always wanted to play, but for one reason or another couldn't quite do that. It's pretty special for us."
Selby was a highly recruited point guard out of Regina High School in Cleveland, a WBCA High School All-American who was ranked as the No. 1 point guard in her class and the No. 13 player overall.
Goestenkors recruited her and then left for Texas just as Selby arrived.
"I was a little upset when that happened, but I didn't pick a school just for the coach," Selby said. "I picked it because of the program and the academics."
But Selby has come into her own in her final season, finally settling in to the starting role she wanted. She has been a leader, particularly during this stretch run, pulling teammates aside to remind them of the importance of not being distracted and "taking care of business," as she put it.
"Playing behind Abby and Jasmine and Karima, it was tough for me being one of the more highly recruited point guards and expecting big things," Selby said. "But, at the same time, I knew I had to work for things. That was pretty difficult for me. It was a hard time."
But Selby is saving her best play for the last days of her career. She has scored in double figures in three of Duke's past four games, the only time in her career she has had such a run.
"Last year and this year have been big years for me," Selby said. "There have been some setbacks, but I learned a lot. I just want to go out in the best way that I can, be the best person that I can be."
While sophomore guard Chelsea Gray and freshman post Elizabeth Williams have had their share of exposure and attention this season, Selby has played in the shadows.
"I've realized that I'm going to have to do whatever I can for the team," Selby said. "The time I get out there, I just have to make the most of it."
McCallie said Selby has grown into her role as a key player on the team.
"We've had our ups and downs," McCallie said. "I've been demanding of her at times, I've had to discipline her at times, but I love her, that's all I can say."
Selby has seen her team flip a switch since losing to North Carolina State in the ACC tournament, a run of confidence that has now carried Duke to the Elite Eight in what promises to be a competitive matchup against Stanford.
"It made us realize that these games aren't guaranteed when it comes to tournament time. Everyone's playing their best basketball and we had to take a step back and realize that," Selby said. "This is our last go-around, this is it. It's our big chance to win and go to the Final Four."
13dBonnie D. Ford