In the eyes of some, basketball is just a game. But to freshman forward Othniel “Duke” Shelton, it is an intense struggle between warriors, and the court is their battlefield.
Shelton lives with the mindset that success is earned, not given, and is the epitome of what a UT Spartan should be.
At a young age, Shelton connected with basketball and began to put in the effort to become a disciple of the game. “Basketball is all I ever wanted to do,” Shelton said.
Since the first time I picked up a ball, I knew that it is what I wanted to do.” Measured at 6-foot-8 and 215 lbs., Shelton was built to play the forward position and possesses the talent to make a play whenever the ball finds him.
In spite of his ability, complacency has never struck Shelton and he is well disciplined to train and practice to improve his game.
“I have spent countless hours at the gym and all of those hours were well used to keep me out of a lot of trouble and give me this opportunity that most young men don’t receive,” Shelton said.
Before becoming a Spartan, Shelton attended Vanguard High School (VHS) in his hometown of Ocala, Florida. While at VHS, Shelton led his team in points (11.6), rebounds (8.2) and blocks (2.2) per game.
That success has translated fluidly into Shelton’s collegiate career here at UT, where he has started in the past 12 games. “At first, I came to UT because it was close to home and this was my first time moving away,” Shelton said. “My teammates’ energy and positivity have influenced me and the system here is very similar to the one at my old high school so the transition was not too difficult to get comfortable with.”
Shelton’s game has hit its stride in the past month and he has averaged 9.8 points per game in the last five contests.
Shelton may be the only starting freshman on the court, but his experience with a basketball speaks volumes.
“Playing alongside Duke is great. He brings energy and toughness to our team,” senior guard and team captain Jordan Davis said.
In a system that complements his tenacious style of play, Shelton has been firing on all cylinders lately. He led the team with 17 points last week to complete the season sweep of Lynn and is developing into a key component to the Spartan squad.
As a freshman, Shelton has three years of college ball ahead of him but he has his dreams in sight.
“I’d like to pursue a professional career and I’d love to play for the Orlando Magic here in my home state,” Shelton said.
“I was a huge fan of Tracy McGrady when he played there and it would be an honor to spend a career of basketball in a place I love to be.”
Although it may be a while before he stops wearing the Spartans jersey, Shelton has the discipline and ability to take his career as far as he’s willing.
“Basketball has played a major role in my life and I am very thankful for that,” Shelton said. “This is all I have ever wanted to do, just a ball and a dream.”
Marcus Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org