Carter and mom
Sharaya Selsor on guard as a mother, but also a leader for Mesa basketball team
The little girl wearing a pint-sized Colorado Mesa basketball T-shirt fidgets in the lap of a woman sitting in the front row, center court, at Brownson Arena.
Suddenly, the little girl’s eyes pop open even wider. A grin crosses her face.
Her arms reach out, her tiny fists opening and closing, the way children do as they learn how to wave.
The Mavericks’ women’s basketball team is taking the floor.
As the players sprint down the court, one takes a peek to the front row. Her eyes, too, open wide, and a loving smile lights up her face as she and the little girl spy one another.
After the game, the players trickle back into the gym. The tiniest Maverick fan squeals with laughter as she toddles across the floor as fast as her little legs can carry her to her favorite player.
Sharaya Selsor sweeps her 1-year-old daughter, Carter, into her arms, repeatedly kissing her cheeks.
“I love basketball, and it means so much, and a win or loss or a good game or bad game mean so much,” says the junior guard for the 7th-ranked Mavericks. “But when I come up from the locker room and that little girl puts her arms out for me, that’s what really matters.
Two years ago, Sharaya Selsor was a high-energy, happy-go-lucky shooting guard for the Mavericks. That summer, though, she got pregnant.
She and her former boyfriend, Jase Herl, who played for the men’s basketball team, moved to western Kansas. Herl was hired as the head men’s basketball coach at Northwest Kansas Technical College, a junior college in his hometown of Goodland.
Carter was born in January 2012, and last summer Selsor moved back to Colorado with her daughter.
She and Herl are still friends, she said, but the relationship didn’t work out. He visits as often as his job allows and helps support his daughter.
“Obviously for Carter I wish things would have been different, but they’re not,” Selsor said. “I think Carter has more love than a lot of kids do with two parents that are together, and at the end of the day I think that’s what matters, that she’s being loved.”
She admits some hurtful things have been said about her.
“The thing that I try to remind myself is that I have made the best out of maybe not the best decision in my life,” Selsor said. “God blessed me with the most amazing blessing, and she has changed my life 100 percent.”
Connie Selsor told her daughter to follow her heart and her dreams. They led her back to the basketball court.
“The best advice she gave me was I can be a good mother and still fulfill my personal dreams,” Sharaya said. “That’s my motivation every day, to be the living example I want Carter to be someday.”
Even when she was pregnant, Sharaya knew she would finish school and, if possible, her basketball career.
When Taylor Wagner was hired as the Mavericks’ new head coach last summer, Sharaya went to him about returning.
He’s been thrilled with the results.
“She’s got great support from home. That’s the thing, her parents have been really good,” said Wagner, whose youngest daughter is only a few weeks older than Carter.
“She’s a good mom. That’s really important. You can see that after the game. It’s fun to see her (with Carter).”
For many college student-athletes, school and sports is enough. Many add a part-time job during the offseason. Selsor juggles all three, plus her daughter.
Her parents, John and Connie Selsor, moved from Glenwood Springs to Grand Junction for a couple of reasons — John gets treatment in Grand Junction for a kidney ailment, and their daughter needed their help.
Sharaya and Carter live with her parents. Katrina Selsor, Sharaya’s younger sister and teammate, lives just down the street.
“It’s a humbling experience to have to do that, and sometimes I have to remind myself I’m not failing because I need their help,” Sharaya said. “I don’t know a single parent who can say they haven’t. You need an army to take care of a child. I have that, luckily.
“As long as I’m playing basketball, I just don’t see me being able to be by myself. It’s my goal, but it’ll be a tough one.”
Sharaya takes classes online, which allows her to care for Carter when she’s not at practice and avoid putting her in day care.
She made the RMAC basketball academic honor roll this year, earning a 3.49 GPA, and will finish her degree in sports management this semester. With one more year of basketball eligibility, she’s trying to decide whether to get a second degree in business administration or start her master’s degree in business next year.
Her part-time job at the nursery at the Hamilton Recreation Center allows her to take Carter with her.
Other than basketball practice, when John Selsor watches her, Carter is Sharaya’s responsibility.
“I’m not going to be a maid,” Connie Selsor said. “She’s really good about doing things for me when I’m at work during the week. It’s like a payoff type thing. She helps me, and I help her.
“We’ve never had to worry about boundaries with Raya as far as going out or coming in. Her whole thing is basketball, that’s her time away from Carter, and she’s not going to abuse any of that other time.”
Sharaya has learned that everything changes when you have a child, from a simple trip to the store to trying to do homework.
“Carter is a wanderer. She doesn’t like to be confined to one room,” Sharaya said.
“She’ll come hang out with me for a little bit, go see what Grandma is doing in the kitchen, what Grandpa is doing in the living room. If I didn’t have that, I have no idea how I would get my homework done.
“I’m not just a mother, I’m a single mother, and without my parents, there would be no way. They have totally filled that other gap of the equation on an everyday basis.”
A different player
Those who know Sharaya Selsor have seen the changes.
She’s more mature, more settled on and off the court.
“That’s the only option when you have a baby, to grow up,” senior co-captain Kelsey Sigl said. “She and I were talking about it. She got a year off to kind of let the game slow down for her. She’s a different player than she was as a sophomore.”
Katrina Selsor knows Sharaya better than anyone.
“I definitely think God placed Carter in her life for a reason,” Katrina said. “Sharaya has grown up a lot, as a person and everything. I think He placed her there for a reason, and she’s nothing but a blessing.
“I think a little bit of her spark, too, is she plays for Carter. She knows that she got the opportunity to come back even though she did have a baby, and she’s doing it better than anyone else could.”
Sharaya is even more driven on the court, saying she feels she owes it to her sister and her teammates to make up for missing last season.
“Her leadership is great,” Wagner said. “She brings an aggressiveness to practice and games. She brings something that no one else really does, and it’s important. We need that type of personality on the team.”
She’s the third-leading scorer on the team, averaging 13.4 points per game, guards the opposing team’s top perimeter player and is the emotional leader on the floor.
Sharaya Selsor is third in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting 46.1 percent, and plays 34 minutes per game, most on the team.
“Carter has been a blessing in so many ways, but she has blessed me on the floor as well with so much maturity and tolerance,” Sharaya said. “She changed me in every way, shape and form for the better. I’m just so thankful for it. I feel like this was God’s plan for me. She definitely is what I live for.”
Carter clearly is the apple of the Selsor family’s eye.
At the Mavericks’ game against Metro State, when fans were asked to wear black, Carter was en vogue. The front of her black T-shirt read: “My mommy is #15”. The back read, “My auntie is #4”. Below that: “Any questions?”
Carter has an array of basketball shirts that she’s dressed in on game day, including CMU basketball shirts (her choice of pink, gray or white), one that reads “Eat Sleep Hoop” and a hot pink “Future Maverick” shirt, all with her mother’s name and number on the back.
Herl gave her black Nikes with neon yellow highlights for her first birthday. She has a pint-sized basketball hoop, and Sharaya proudly says her little girl is already dunking.
During games, Carter moves from Grandma’s lap to Grandpa, then to her great-grandmother, Judy Beecraft.
Friends and fans stop and say hi to her, and she grins back. When coaxed, she’ll give out a baby high-five.
Her eyes miss nothing, especially Mommy and Auntie Tini on the court.
When the cheerleaders perform at halftime, she’s mesmerized by the high-flying action and music.
During the men’s games, the Selsor sisters are usually sitting on the floor in front of their parents, entertaining Carter. At halftime a couple of weeks ago, Carter was trying out her new basketball shoes, her mother chasing behind.
Since she sees her mom and aunt on the court, Carter made a beeline for the free-throw line, laughing as Sharaya scooped her up and took her back to their seats.
The Selsor sisters have always been close. Carter has bonded them even tighter.
“I had no doubt in my mind whatsoever that she couldn’t accomplish what she’s doing,” Katrina said. “I praise her for what she’s doing. I look up to her, obviously, but even more now just knowing everything she has to do, school, basketball, take care of Carter. I couldn’t have asked for a better sister.”
Katrina, who is more reserved than her older sister, simply melts around her niece. If Sharaya has errands to run, needs to go to campus or simply needs some time to herself, her first phone call is to her sister.
“I get some auntie time,” Katrina said. “I love it. It helps that she’s the cutest little bug in the whole wide world.”
The first night Sharaya spent away from her daughter was an emotional one. The Mavericks played an exhibition game at the University of Denver, and Connie, who travels to most road games with Carter, decided to skip the trip.
“I shed some tears, but I just talked to my mom a lot that weekend, and I knew she was in her safe environment and everything was fine,” Sharaya said.
The opening tournament at Dixie State was the first time Connie took Carter on the road.
“At Utah I was running a little late,” Connie said. “It’s been awhile since I had kids, and it takes me more time. I had to learn how to organize my time a little bit better with Carter.
“We were running a little behind, and (Sharaya) was having a panic attack. When I walked in, Coach (Michael) Wells came up and said, ‘I’m so glad you’re here.’ They were just starting to play the national anthem, and I’m always there before that.”
An easy choice
Sharaya Selsor loves basketball, but if there’s a choice to be made between the game she loves or her daughter, it’ll be an easy one to make.
“I love basketball, and it is my dream, but being a mother is ... basketball doesn’t compare to that,” she said.
“If there was ever a time when I would sacrifice it to the point where Carter wasn’t No. 1 in my life, I wouldn’t (play) anymore.”
After practice every day, Sharaya switches from college athlete to young mother.
“That’s why I like basketball. I get to come in and be Sharaya, the 22-year-old student-athlete,” she said. “That’s what I enjoy doing, and as soon as I’m done doing that, I get to go home and be where my heart really is.
“To be honest, I’ve never been happier.”