As I mentioned in this post, one of the players I've become close with in my time here is Shelby Moats and he is one of the players I'm most likely to stay in touch with even after I graduate. Shelby is a really good guy, he's smart, insightful, and just a good person. He also happens to be the most popular guy on campus in terms of his appeal to the female population because he combines all of the attributes sorority girls on this campus look for.
He's White, tall, good looking, smart, very social, an athlete, but he could also double as a frat guy if he really wanted to. He really bridges the gap between athlete and regular Vandy student very well and you'd be hard pressed to find 5 girls on this campus who don't have some form of a crush on Shelby. In this post I will detail the 4 stages of Shelby's Vanderbilt career that led him to this point.
STAGE 1 - THE MEATHEAD STAGE: Shelby is from Waconia, Minnesota a suburb of Minneapolis and as mentioned above he is White and good looking, so it would be easy to throw the "pretty boy" label on to him. I think Shelby was aware of his background and that the pretty boy perception could be out there regarding him so he came on to campus with a serious edge. He wanted to prove himself as tough, hard nosed, hit you in your mouth type of player. He played a very physical brand of basketball and was almost brutish in his play during practice. In the macho culture of Division I athletics, Shelby wanted to prove he belonged (despite not necessarily looking the part like say Festus Ezeli).
He would get bloodied up or bruised because he dove on the floor so hard during the season. He was black and blue all over because he went so hard. He also had a sometimes explosive temper as he struggled to find ways to effectively channel his passion. He was, and still is, very hard on himself when he makes a mistake, but it is something he has improved on significantly in his time here. In addition to his fiery on-court demeanor and flares of anger, Shelby had a buzz cut hairstyle and got tatted up during this period. He was really embracing the meathead persona, even lifting weights on off-days with Curtis Turner, our strength coach to build himself up.
STAGE 2 - LONG HAIR, DON'T CARE: Stage 2 began toward the end of last season, as Shelby began gravitating more away from the banging on the blocks to working on a more finesse game. He was training himself to be like a stretch 4 type, a power forward who could space and stretch the floor with his outside shooting. As the year went on he became more comfortable with his jump shot and started to drift toward the three point line in practice. Once the season ended, Shelby worked really hard on his three point shooting and on improving his skillset outside of just bringing an attitude or edge any time he stepped on the court.
This period of drifting to the three point line came at the same time as his decision to let his hair grow out and went to California for the month of May last year. Shelby spent the month of May in Los Angeles with a friend and was right at home, adopting the California cool, laidback persona and even picking up new vocabulary like "hella".
Shelby wanted to model his hair after "Thor", who is pictured below. He didn't cut his hair from March of last year until November of last year when Coach Stallings issued an ultimatum on his flow, "Either get it cut or you don't play", so Shelby decided it would be best to sacrifice his hair for continued playing time and after Thanksgiving, the hair was cut to more reasonable proportions. When he had the flow, Shelby played with a headband type thing to keep the hair out of his eyes, but when the hair went that went also.
STAGE 3 - CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE: Stage 3 occurred slightly after the flow was gone. This stage lasted throughout December and January of this past year. The team was struggling during this time and Shelby was also struggling personally. After not playing very much as a freshman, he was struggling to adapt to the expectations that came with playing 20-25 minutes a game. He was also playing out of position at center out of necessity to the lack of big men on this year's roster. The combination of playing a position in which was he was severely undersized and not meeting the expectations he had for himself, this was not a great period for Shelby.
He was very hard and himself and it seemed like all the fun of basketball was gone for him. During practices and games, he just didn't look happy on the court and it was unfortunate because at the end of the day basketball is just a game. As Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said last year, "In the grand scheme of things, basketball and and basketball players really aren't all that important". Basketball serves a lot of purposes in terms of uniting people, building pride, etc., but at the end of the day it is a game. Nothing more, nothing less. I told Shelby not to wrap his self-worth up in his play on the court. In 10 years, people won't remember how many points he had versus Butler but rather whether he represented the university well and was a good person.
During this period, Shelby had some very good games including versus Kentucky at home, but also some bad ones like at Missouri and at Tennessee which led to him not being in the rotation for a few games. It really was an up and down time for him and he even tweeted "Maybe I'm playing the wrong sport, with how many fouls I pick up maybe I should play football haha" or something along those lines. He really just wasn't sure of what he could do, he felt overmatched and overwhelmed, but ultimately that led to the last stage of his career thus far: The Finally at Peace Stage.
STAGE 4 - FINALLY AT PEACE: Since about mid-February, Shelby has finally come to peace with his place on the team and at this school. He has always realized that coming to Vanderbilt was more than just a basketball decision, that getting a Vanderbilt degree would position him to be successful in life in the long haul. However, now he has truly realized all the opportunities he has here. He will be going to London in May to study abroad and takes a very difficult course load for his Econ major. He truly wants to get the most out of his experience here, both on and off the court.
On the court, Shelby was at peace as well. He realized that as long as he gave it his all every game, there was nothing to hang his head about. Sometimes in life you will be overmatched, but if you give 100 percent than you really have nothing to be ashamed of. He no longer lets outside expectations or his own expectations interfere with the way he plays or views the game. Basketball is now more fun for him because he is realizing that it isn't the end of the world if you have a bad game. Shit happens.
He's enjoying life as a student and an athlete and that is why I have a ton of respect for him, because he wants to get the most out of his time here in every way possible, and he has really matured over the past two years to get to this point. It's always cool to see the way someone progresses in their time with the team, and Shelby's progression has been very impressive to watch, and I'm proud to call him a friend.