Dougherty star Ra'Keta Shelton celebrates during the season after beating rival Monroe. Shelton was named the The Herald’s Willie Boston Girls Player of the Year in basketball after an incredible junior season.
Ra’Keta Shelton wasn’t a member of The Herald’s preseason Super 6er team.
Turns out, she was the Super 1.
Shelton, a junior, emerged this season as a force who seemed unstoppable at times to turn Dougherty’s season around, and she made a name for herself in Southwest Georgia to become The Herald’s Willie Boston Girls Player of the Year in basketball.
Shelton not only averaged 17 points and a remarkable 17 rebounds per game, she took over in many games this season.
“I just felt I had to do more,’’ said Shelton, who at 5-foot-9 plays much bigger. “We had a bad start to our season and even though I scored in double digits the first two games I really felt I had to do more to help my team. I wanted to give 100 percent all the time, and I thought if I give 100 percent then my teammates will look at me and they will give 100 percent.’’
Shelton not only became Dougherty’s leading scorer and rebounder, but she became the leader.
“Before this season I always thought that you had to be a senior to be a leader,’’ she said. “But I found out that anyone can be the leader. A freshman can be a leader, and I decided I wanted to be a leader. I figured if I am leading and busting my butt that my teammates will look at me and say, ‘If she’s busting her butt then I will, too.’ I wanted to win and I wanted us to get better as a team.”
She was the leader.
Dougherty lost three of its first five games and then turned its season around to emerge as a power down the stretch as Shelton took over game after game.
“I knew from the first of the season that I had to step up,’’ Shelton said.
Shelton continued: “I had to change my attitude. When I had an attitude I didn’t play well. I would get down and get frustrated. I just started telling myself to stay calm, and I would let my anger out after the game was over.’’
Shelton also changed the way she attacked the game.
“I would be at practice early every day and then I would stay late after practice to work on my rebounding,’’ said Shelton, who had several games in which she had 20 or more rebounds. Her effort in a 60-51 loss to Monroe in the Region 1-AAAA game was inspirational. Shelton scored 28 points and grabbed 24 rebounds in the loss.
Dougherty coach Charlene Jackson said rebounding came naturally for Shelton.
“I coached her mother and I coached her older sister and they were all good rebounders,’’ Jackson said. “Ra’Keta really stepped up this year, and she did take over some games. We have been waiting on this from her. I thought she had a chance to be something special when she was a freshman, and she has improved from year to year, but she made a big improvement this season. When she makes up her mind to play hard, she is a force.’’
It wasn’t always that way for Shelton.
“Basketball wasn’t my favorite sport,’’ she said. “Softball was always my favorite. I started playing softball when I was 3 and still love to play softball. I didn’t start playing basketball until I was in sixth grade and I was bad, really bad. I couldn’t even dribble the ball. My coach would put me in the game just to foul someone, and he told me when I got the ball to pass it, and he would say, ‘Do not move. Do not move.’ I would walk a mile. I would walk all over the place and double dribble.’’
Shelton said she really didn’t grasp the game until two years later.
“I started getting the hang of it when I was in eighth grade,’’ she said. “Then I started getting good at basketball. When I was in ninth grade my older sister was on tvarsity and she told me I wouldn’t make varsity and that I would be on the JV team, but I worked hard and made varsity. I was the seventh girl, and then last year I started.’’
Jackson said she saw the big difference this season in a Christmas tournament in Macon when Shelton, who had been scoring in double figures, had a breakout game and scored 28 against state power Rutland.
“That’s when she started to come on and she just got better and better,’’ Jackson said. “She really started getting rebounds and was hard to stop inside. We are going to work with her now and work on her mid-range shot because she will need that in college.’’
Shelton said she never thought about a college scholarship in basketball when she was younger, but now it’s her goal.
“I had a good season but I think next season will be even a better season for me,’’ she said. “That will be my best high school season. I know I just have to keep working hard and get better. Every time I see my middle school coach now he always says the same thing to me. He says, ‘Rak, you have come a long way.’ ”
She has indeed.
Player of the Year Co-runner-ups
Adriana Blackmon, Randolph-Clay, Senior
Why She’s here: She is the consummate all-around player, a point guard who did everything for the state runner-up Lady Red Devils. She was not only the floor leader, but she averaged 14 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals a game and was the heart of the Lady Red Devils’ remarkable run to the Class A state title game.
Briunna Freeman, Pelham, Sophomore
Why She’s here: She led Pelham to the second round of the Class AA state playoffs, averaging 19.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals and one block per game.
Kanekia Washington, Randolph-Clay, Senior
Why She’s here: She averaged 16 points per game and also grabbed four rebounds from her guard spot. She also averaged five steals and five assists a game.
Madi Mitchell, Crisp Academy, Junior
Why She’s here: She led Crisp to its third consecutive GISA Class A state title, averaging 21 points, 10 rebounds, two blocked shots and 3.5 assists per game.
Keshondra “Key Key” Price, Monroe, Sophomore
Why She’s here: She was the leader of the Lady Tornadoes, who won the Region 1-AAAA title and advanced to the Class AAAA Sweet 16. She averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds and handed out four assists per game while averaging two steals a night.
A’Miracle Jones, Mitchell County, Junior
Why She’s here: She was the Offensive Player of the Year in Region 1-A and has led Mitchell for the past three seasons. Jones not only averaged a double-double for the season, but she scored 14 points and grabbed 14 rebounds per game. She also averaged four assists and two steals and led the Lady Eagles to the Elite 8 of the Class A state playoffs.
Brandi Buie, Calhoun County, Junior
Why She’s here: She averaged 26 points and 11 rebounds per game and was the leader for the Lady Cougars. She also averaged four steals and four assists per game.
Kobi Thornton, Randolph-Clay, Freshman
Why She’s here: She averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds a game and dominated inside. She also averaged four steals and blocked an average of five blocks a game.
Katrese Brown, Seminole County, Senior
Why She’s here: She led the Lady Indians to the Class A state quarterfinals, averaging 16 points and five assists a game.
Brianna Thornton, Randolph-Clay, Sophomore
Why She’s here: She averaged a double-double (10 points, 14 rebounds) for the season and was a force inside all year.
Whenekia Washington, Randolph-Clay, Senior
Why She’s here: Arguably the best 3-point shooter in Southwest Georgia., she made 140 treys this season and 324 in her career.
Quannesha Gatling, Dougherty, Senior
Why She’s here: She averaged 12 points and 9 rebounds a game.
Mallory Diamond, Miller County, Senior
Why She’s here: She averaged 32 points, 8 rebounds and t3 steals a game.
Breka Holton, Mitchell County, Junior
Why She’s here: She averaged 15 rebounds and 10 points a game for the Lady Eagles.
Candace Barber, Seminole County, Senior
Why She’s here: She averaged 12 points and 4 assists a game.