She did it again. Shann Sellers, a senior guard for the Friends Falcons, did it again.
She picked Kansas Wesleyan clean during a 77-57 Friends win Thursday night in Salina, coming up with eight steals. While Sellers, who is from Dallas, values points, rebounds and assists as much as anyone who plays basketball, it’s thievery that drives her to passion to play.
“I would play defense the whole game if I could,” Sellers said. “Just to steal the ball. That’s what I love doing.”
Sellers averages 6.2 steals. She sizes up her ballhandling opponents, looks for clues in how they like to dribble and move, then goes for the kill. It’s not always easy to watch as Sellers seizes the basketball from a frustrated and humiliated foe and drives to the basket for an easy layup. Honestly, you feel a little sorry for the victim.
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Sellers averages 24.8 points to go with 8.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists. She shoots 54.3 percent, a percentage buoyed by all those steals and the resulting easy baskets.
But here’s one of the funny things about Sellers’ game, except I doubt she’s laughing. She’s not a good three-point shooter (7 of 31 this season) and she’s shooting less than 50 percent from the free-throw line (48.6) in her career, although her free-throw percentage has risen to 54.5 percent this season.
Sellers said she works and works on her shooting and decided this season, after taking 10 three-point shots in her first three seasons — all misses, by the way — that she was going to let it fly as a senior.
“I felt like, ‘Hey, you’re never going to get another chance,’ ” Sellers said. “Why not take some? We work on them, it’s what I do most of the time in the gym. My coach is confident. But it’s easy for me to get to the rim. I might have the three and I might think I can hit the three, but it’s a lot easier to get to the rim than it is to shoot the ball.”
What sets Sellers apart is athleticism. She was a standout track athlete and volleyball player at Sunset High in Dallas, but turned down offers from Ranger Community College and North Texas to play volleyball.
The 5-foot-8 Sellers has had an amazing career at Friends — NAIA first-team All-American last season, KCAC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year — and the Falcons are unbeaten in the KCAC (15-3, 11-0). It’s a career that would include even greater statistical numbers if she hadn’t suffered a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in her right knee in the Falcons’ seventh game of her sophomore season in 2014-15.
“We’ve been to (NAIA Division II) nationals four of the previous seasons,” Friends coach RaeAnne Boothe said, “and that was the one season we didn’t go. If Shann had been healthy, it’s probably the difference in getting to a Final Four. But that group learned a lot and we were very, very focused the following season.”
No one more so than Sellers, who stayed in Wichita during the summers of 2015 and 2016 to work on basketball. She’s drawn to the gym, determined to be the best, dissatisfied with anything less.
“In my opinion, she’s the best player in the country,” Booth said of Sellers. “She’s improved tremendously and has all of that strength, quickness. I haven’t seen a player who can do what she does at this level ever. And she’s humble about it, knowing she could play anywhere. She’s definitely going to leave a great legacy.”
It’s not a legacy Sellers is chasing. It’s trophies, championships, hardware.
“You can have all of these personal accolades — ‘Oh, you’re the best in the conference’ — but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the hardware,” Sellers said.
Sellers scored 28 points and made 14 of 17 shots in the Thursday night win over Kansas Wesleyan. But she missed her only three-pointer and also missed her only free throw. Friends’ Saturday game at Oklahoma Wesleyan has been postponed by predicted bad weather.
It says everything about the way Sellers plays that her struggles shooting the basketball are no more than a slight glitch on her resume.
“I like shooting the basketball, I like making threes,” Sellers said. “When I do take a three-pointer and make it, it surprises people because I go to the rim almost all of the time.
“Free-throw shooting, that’s a mindset. I can knock them down in practice, but I think it’s a mental thing. I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated, but I just really want to make them. And that’s when it becomes an issue.”
Boothe said Sellers is so active, so energetic, so thirsty to make a steal that the calm of free-throw shooting could be too much of a tempo change.
“On the court, Shann is a beast during the up-tempo of a game,” Booth said. “But when the game stops, when the spotlight is on her and everybody is looking at her, that’s the mental piece. In the course of a game, she could have 35 points and doesn’t even realize everyone is watching her.”
Sellers is so worth watching, though. When Friends plays, she’s the focal point. She’s ferocious — the queen of the steal, so deft at theft.