Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sheldon Jeter: A Man with Big Dreams and Bigger Balls

My first impression of Sheldon Jeter came last year when he was on campus for his visit at the end of April. To be totally honest, I was really unimpressed and so were some of the older players on the team. He had a hitch in his shot and missed a lot of them, and in pickup he was pretty bad. I thought we were reaching by recruiting him and thought maybe we just wanted to add another body to our recruiting class given how many upperclassmen we had leaving.

Once Sheldon got to campus, I wasn't much more impressed with him as a player. He showed flashes of his athleticism in team workouts and early practices, but he didn't look like a great basketball player. He was pretty poor defensively and offensively, other than some highlight dunks, didn't really stand out in the way that fellow freshman Kevin Bright did. By the time our first game rolled around, I didn't really envision Sheldon playing a big role for this team, but after the first game I suspected there might be a chance that I was wrong.

The reason I thought I might be wrong wasn't because Sheldon played well, because he didn't. He shot 1 of 6 and wasn't a real difference maker, but what impressed me was that he took 6 shots in 17 minutes. As a freshman. Coming off the bench. In my time here, all of the freshmen players from John Jenkins my freshman year to Kedren Johnson last year were brought along slowly. They didn't gain freedom right away, it came over the course of the season. Sheldon didn't necessarily gain freedom offensively right away, so much as he took it, and that wowed me.

We were a young team this year with guys playing roles at this college level that they had never played before and many guys on the team played hesitant both at the start of the season and throughout the year, Sheldon among them. Aside from Kedren Johnson, I'm not sure there is a player on the team with more confidence in himself and his abilities than Sheldon. It wasn't easy to see that at first, but as the season wore on, everyone was able to see it.

I like to say Sheldon has no conscience on the court and that is why I love watching him play. Any time he checks in, the first time he touches the ball from the 3 point line, the ball is going up instantly. There is no second thought, it's going up. It just is. Sometimes it goes in and sometimes it doesn't but it always goes up. There is also at least one time a game where Sheldon badly misses a three causing the coaches and bench to cringe alike because there is a good chance it came with 29 seconds left on the shot clock, but he also makes a lot of them (39 percent).

Sheldon also attacks the rim relentlessly. I feel like he would be right at home at Florida Gulf Coast on their "Dunk City" squad. Sheldon loves to get animated when he makes a big play and has a series of pretty funny reactions and faces after a big play. His aggressive driving mentality and ability to get to the foul line really helped us in conference play. He played with no fear and always played hard on the floor. He certainly made his share of mistakes but I'd personally rather see mistakes made because of aggression as opposed to passivity. His animated nature also helps fire up the team in big games and big moments.

Some photos of Sheldon's many expressions

In addition to his confidence on the court, Sheldon is very confident and comfortable with himself off the court. Sheldon doesn't try to fit in or conform to what other guys in the team are doing or anybody else is doing, he is very independent and secure with who he is. While he may receive flak from some of the other guys on the team for wearing printed jeans, John Lennon-esque sunglasses, his instagram name, or hanging out with a group called "The Wolfpack", it doesn't bother Sheldon what other people may say about him. He is not going to change who he is just because some people may want him to and that is not easy to do sometimes.

There are only 15 members of the team and with the amount of time required to spend doing team related activities whether that be practice, games, travel, or lifting weights is enormous. As I mentioned in this post, it is easy to get absorbed into the "basketball/athletics bubble" and not get to experience life outside of that and Sheldon tries to reach out to others outside the basketball team because he enjoys interacting with the broader community, and I like that about Sheldon. He is comfortable with himself enough to carve his own identity at the school independent of what others may expect of him, and it is refreshing to see.

Sheldon and "The Wolfpack"

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