After a season that saw her surpass 1,000 points, be named a Indiana Junior All-Star, and lead the Linton Lady Miners to a 2A State Championship, Vanessa Shafford has decided to end the recruiting process and commit to the University of Southern Indiana Women’s Basketball program.
Vanessa chose D2 USI despite holding offers from a slew of other programs, including D1 programs Indiana State, Evansville, and Murray State. “The coaching staff has been there a long time. They are all from USI.” Shafford stated, “It just feels like they will make me the best player that I can be and we can have a lot of success there.” With a host of other schools calling and vying for her to be part of their program, Shafford said it was a tough choice. “I built so many great relationships with other places and coaches. But after talking with my family, I just loved it at USI. Coach Stein is great, the closeness to home, my family likes it there. There really were no negatives.”
And it is easy to see why. Head coach Rick Stein just finished his 20th season as the program’s head coach and has amassed 359 wins, with 6 NCAA D2 tournament appearances. Located only 98 miles from Linton, the Screaming Eagles finished this season 18-9, advancing to the NCAA D2 tournament for the 11th time. They were the #7 seed in the Midwest regional, before the tournament was cancelled.
Meanwhile, Vanessa’s accomplishments on the court cannot be overstated. Along with fellow juniors Aubrey Burgess and Haley Rose, Vanessa has completely changed the program. Since entering the lineup as a freshman, the team has a 67-13 record, completed three undefeated Conference Championships, and won the first Regional, Semi-State, and State Titles in program history. This season saw her average 18 points and 7 rebounds per game, while also leading the team in assists, steals, and blocks. To say she is a well rounded player would be obvious.
She is not just a talented basketball player, but also incredibly hard working. “I’m just excited and proud of her.” said Lady Miners Head Coach Jared Rehmel. “All of her long hours and hard work have paid off. Lots of time and effort that you just can’t say enough about.” This work ethic has allowed her to not only achieve on the basketball court, but also in the spring during the track season. Last year, before being a state finalist in basketball, Vanessa advanced to the state championships in discus.
But what can be lost in all of the awards, records, and accomplishments is how great of a person Vanessa is. Talk to her teammates, coaches, teachers, and classmates. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who knows her who has a bad word to say about her.
And I am right there with them. As an assistant coach, I have seen first hand how much effort she puts in, how much she has grown as a leader, and how much she genuinely cares about the program and her teammates. As a teacher, I have seen her perseverance in the classroom carry her to a 3.97 GPA. Not taking the easy way out, she continues to take Honors and AP classes. Even more, I have seen how kindly she treats my kids, and how great of a role model she is to future Lady Miners. Coach Rehmel agreed, “She is a great role model for all the young girls that want to pursue their dreams. She has made it a reality.”
So what is next, now that he season, school year, and recruiting process are over. “The whole process is stressful.” she said, “And it feels like now it’s a sigh of relief and we can just enjoy it.”
And that is exactly what she should do. Enjoy it. Enjoy every minute Ness. You deserve it.