Selsor hopes all her hard work and improvement leads to more wins for Mesa
Sharaya Selsor ties her shoes and slips the ear buds into her ears.
The gym is hers for the next 75 minutes. Not a soul around, not a sound other than the whoosh of the basketball snapping the net.
“The Gun,” an automatic rebounder and ball feeder, moves from zone to zone, shooting the next pass to the senior guard.
Corner. Wing. Top of the key. Wing. Corner. Around the 3-point line she shoots. And shoots. And shoots.
Release. The wrist snaps into the “goose head” finish she was taught as a youngster. She holds the finish, then, as the ball reaches the rim, she raises her arm above her head, the wrist still cocked.
“I make 300 every day,” Selsor said. “Preseason I was making 500.”
As her teammates filter into Brownson Arena, she waves and says hi, asks how class was or how they’re doing. More and more players arrive — practice isn’t for another half-hour.
Catch. Shoot. Swish.
Once she makes 300 shots, she breaks down The Gun and pushes it across the floor to the corner, where it’ll stay until tomorrow, when she starts over again.
Now it’s time for the real work to begin. Sophomore center Erika Musante passes to Selsor as she mimics coming off screens from various spots on the floor.
Run to the paint, plant, pivot, curl back to the wing. Catch. Shoot. Swish.
Curl cut into the lane, back to the top of the key. Catch. Shoot. Swish.
Now comes pad work, with Selsor driving to the rim as Musante smacks her with a blocking pad so she learns how to finish the shot despite drawing contact against bigger players.
At 6-foot-2, Musante is the tallest player on the team, so she’ll close out on the 5-9 Selsor, hands high, trying to block her view of the rim.
About 15 minutes before the start of practice at 1 p.m., the Mavericks start to stretch. Then it’s a demanding two-hour practice, often followed by weights or a film session.
The next morning, Selsor is back in the gym by 11:15 a.m. Catch. Shoot. Swish. Make 300 shots.
That daily routine is a fraction of what Selsor did all summer, when her alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. She and Musante were in the Hamilton Recreation Center when the doors opened at 5:30 a.m., then went to the weight room five days a week.
“A lot of it was for my own personal success, but most of it was we needed someone in the gym because what we did last year wasn’t good enough,” Selsor said.
“It wasn’t good enough; we didn’t win. We didn’t work hard enough. I worked very hard to get back into shape after I had Carter (her 2-year-old daughter), and I obviously didn’t do enough because we didn’t win. I just needed to make sure I did more than I did the previous summer. That was the goal: to do better, so we could win a national championship.”
The next step toward that goal begins Friday, when the Mavericks open play in the NCAA Division II South Central Region tournament against Midwestern State. It’s a rematch of the 2013 regional championship game the Mavericks won to reach the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.
Last season, Selsor was Option 3 in the Mavericks’ offense, with Kelsey Sigl and Katrina Selsor the first two.
Sharaya Selsor’s job was to position herself on the 3-point line and be ready to shoot if Sigl didn’t have something inside or Katrina Selsor wasn’t slicing in from the wing in the half-court offense.
She filled that role without a hitch, scoring 12.4 points per game on a team that went 31-2. This season, she wanted more. She wanted to be Option 1. She wants to win more than 31 games.
Coach Taylor Wagner told all of the returning players that no spot was guaranteed, that he was going to sign players to make the team better. If that meant he was recruiting over seniors, so be it.
“I just said that I beg to differ,” she said, laughing. “I knew what I wanted to do, and that was to end my career showing people my potential from the day I walked in here.”
She’s done that and more.
The RMAC coaches voted her the conference player of the year, and, as the second-leading scorer in the nation, she’s in line to add All-American awards to her resume. She’s already a third-team academic All-American.
“She’s one of those special players that comes around not too much, but you hope as a coach you find another one and find them quick,” Wagner said. “Hopefully those (younger players) have taken something from her they can instill next year or the next two years or three years, however long they have.
“You want to be RMAC player of the year? This is what it is. You want to be an All-American? This is what it is. Nothing was given to her. She went out and earned. That’s what I like about her; she went out and earned every accolade she got, and she deserves them, too.”
Wagner saw quickly this season that Selsor would be Option 1. She scored 13 points in the season opener, then erupted for 39 points the next night. In the RMAC opener against Chadron State, she went off for 40 points, only two off the Mavericks’ single-game record.
“No one could guard her in practice,” Wagner said. “The first six games nobody could guard her. She scored outside, she was getting to the basket, the free-throw line, she was doing it all. She was doing it at a high level.”
She’s done it at a high level all season. Selsor has scored in double figures in every game, and she’s second on the team in assists with 111.
As her role changed, she showed she can attack the basket.
“Last year it would have made no sense for me to try to attack the basket like I do this year when Katrina attacked the basket, Kelsey attacked the basket, Bruna (Deichmann) attacked the basket,” she said. “I was the best shooter. Shoot the ball; their role was to attack the basket.”
It didn’t take long for opposing coaches to notice the new Sharaya Selsor.
They’ve tried every defense imaginable to try to slow her down, but her determination, added strength, speed, and the new emphasis on calling hand-checking has all worked in her favor. That, and she’s still the best 3-point shooter on the team (43.2 percent), has a great midrange jumper, drives for layups in traffic, and, if she gets stuck inside, she’s developed her step-through move to gain some space. She shoots 44.6 percent from the field.
You don’t want to foul her. Selsor shoots 88 percent from the free-throw line.
And she does it often playing all 40 minutes a game — and guarding the best scoring guard on the opposing team.
“Way too much,” Wagner said of the demands placed on her every game. “For her to play 40 minutes, to have to score, to have to defend, she’s still going, and that’s a testament to her and her conditioning. I think when the season’s finally over there’ll be a physical and mental letdown where (she) needs to take a day or two and not have to do anything, and she deserves that.”
When CSU-Pueblo came to Grand Junction in January, coach Kip Drown was stunned by what he saw. He had noticed on film that Selsor looked to be in great shape. He saw firsthand why.
“We walked in 90 minutes before game time, and Sharaya was on the floor with somebody rebounding for her, and she’s busting her tail,” said Drown, who coached Katrina Selsor her freshman year at CSU-Pueblo before she transferred to Mesa. “The coaches sat down and watched her another 15 minutes go through as hard a workout as you have in July, and she’s getting ready to play a basketball game in another 60 or 70 minutes.
“That’s a commitment level as impressive as I’ve ever seen a kid have.”
Musante said there were mornings when neither wanted to go to the gym, but she and Selsor made a commitment to each other. Those summer workouts helped Musante, who has struggled to stay healthy the past couple of years, get stronger.
“We can all learn from her,” Musante said. “She didn’t force me, but she encouraged me to come in this summer. I’ll definitely come in again this summer, and she said she’ll come in and help me when she can. She has that work ethic, and hopefully I can carry that on to the other players.”
Selsor and Christen Lopez are the team co-captains, and the Mavericks’ point guard has total faith in Selsor on the floor.
“It makes my job a whole lot easier because she worked on that all summer, coming off those screens,” Lopez said. “I trust her with the ball. If I can’t get it inside, I’m going to get it to her. That’s pretty much an automatic 3 or an automatic little jumper. She’s worked on it so much. It’s amazing to watch.”
Selsor, who graduated from Glenwood Springs High School, entered this season with 744 career points in two seasons at Mesa after transferring from Metro State. She had to sit out the 2009-10 season after that transfer, then averaged 12.4 points a game as a sophomore.
She missed the 2011-12 season when she was pregnant with Carter, then returned last year and won a starting spot on Wagner’s first Mesa team.
When this season began, Selsor wasn’t in the top 25 in career scoring at Colorado Mesa.
Twenty-nine games and 705 points later, she enters Friday’s game with 1,452 career points, fourth on the all-time list. Last weekend she passed Sigl and is 39 points out of third place (Jaime White) and 142 out of second (Brittany Fowler). Tonya Stites scored 1,920 in her All-American career for the Mavericks.
Earlier this season Selsor broke Sigl’s record of 610 points in a single season.
All of those records are fine, but what the 23-year-old single mother wants is six more victories.
Showing Carter, who sits in the front row at Brownson Arena with Selsor’s parents, often wearing a “Go Mommy” CMU shirt, that you can have it all is part of what drives Selsor.
Even more is her love of the sport.
“There’s nothing I want more,” she said, “than to finish it on top.”