Sometimes it is hard to think of a player who is 6’10, 250 pounds flying under the radar of professional teams, but in many ways, D.J. Shelton out of Washington State has. A strong, athletic forward who can score around the basket or knock down perimeter shots is always going to get looks, but Shelton is still a player who has plenty of room to develop his game more to meet the rigors of professional basketball.
Shelton put together his best season for the Cougars as a senior, averaging 10 points per game and 9.5 rebounds. That rebounding total put him in the top 25 of all of Division I basketball last season.
With his college career behind him and the next step coming up fast, I had the chance to talk to Shelton as he reflected on Washington State and what is coming next for him.
Heading to Washington State for his sophomore year after a year in junior college, Shelton saw a great opportunity there. “The chance to play in the Pac-12 and the level of play were important to me,” said Shelton. “I fit in very well when I went there.”
Though team success was tough to come by, Shelton was able to see the development in his game from year to year. “I really saw an improvement in my perimeter game,” Shelton said, who hit 53 three-pointers in his junior and senior year, though he needs to become more consistent. “Also, my rebounding really developed each year at Washington State, to where I was one of the best in college basketball.”
Shelton was also able to see his development as a person while at Washington State. “My time there really helped me mature,” Shelton explained. “Being in a small town with not a lot to do, it made me spend more time focusing on basketball.”
There was also an added pressure for Shelton playing in the Northwest, where his family has a strong athletic history. Shelton’s uncle Lonnie Shelton was a basketball star at Oregon State before spending 10 years in the NBA. He also has cousins who have played NFL football and for various Division I basketball teams. “There was a lot expected of me because of my family name, especially in the Pacific Northwest,” said Shelton. “It made me work harder to live up to it.”
As Shelton trains in Atlanta for a chance to work out for NBA teams, he understands what parts of his game will be attractive to professional clubs. “My ability to rebound on both ends of the floor, as well as being able to stretch the floor will be important for NBA teams,” explained Shelton. “Also, I have a very high motor and I want to show that I am a versatile defender who can guard multiple positions.”
While he continues to hone those skills, Shelton also has a key area that he has been working on during this pre-draft time. “I’ve been working a lot on my back-to-the basket moves so I can be a bigger threat inside,” said Shelton. “I want to develop a few go-to moves that I know will work when I get the ball.”
Shelton can already envision how he can come in and help a team right away. “I can come off the bench and provide some high energy and grab some rebounds,” Shelton said. “I can also come in and play some tough defense and knock down open jumpers when needed. I can play a role similar to guys like Draymond Green or Boris Diaw.”
Shelton has already worked out for the Sacramento Kings and he will get a chance to work out for the Charlotte Hornets next week. Shelton hopes to make a statement to teams in the coming weeks about what he can do for them.
“I am ready to come in and give a team what they need with my size and athleticism,” said Shelton. “I am ready to prove myself to anyone.”
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