Students filed into Shoemaker’s gym Tuesday afternoon to watch on as senior Charlene Shepherd signed her letter of intent to play basketball for North Texas, an NCAA Division I program.
Her family gathered around her, and the crowd silently watched on as she signed her name on the line to make her commitment official.
“I’ve had a few players before her sign,” Lady Grey Wolves’ head coach Michelle Alderson said, “but this one’s a little different, because I’ve been knowing her for so long; since she was a little girl.”
Long day coming
Shepherd has always loved the game, and it’s that love of basketball that has taken her from the sideline to the front line.
Her love was clear to everyone from a young age, especially her mother Patricia Shepherd, whose eyes filled with tears as she spoke of her daughter and what she has accomplished.
“She was watching her older sister play at Ellison,” Patricia Shepherd said. “She was the water girl when Coach O’Neal (Alderson) was over there coaching.
“She was the water girl and came up from that and has now got her day where she signed.”
The road to this day hasn’t always been easy.
Charlene Shepherd started playing basketball in the fourth grade, and Patricia Shepherd believes that nobody thought this day would come.
She told the crowd of students gathered to watch and support her
daughter that any of them could be where Charlene Shepherd is with work.
“This is not something that’s been given to her,” Patricia Shepherd said. “Basketball is a tough sport to come into because the girls play tough against each other.
“She went through that, and grew up and it’s just a great feeling.”
Last season, one may remember seeing Charlene Shepherd on the volleyball court, but she signed her letter of intent for the basketball program.
“Basketball is where my heart has always been,” Charlene Shepherd said. “I love this sport, and every time I step on the court, I just fall in love with it all over again.”
What the future holds
According to Patricia Shepherd, more than 12 Division I and II schools pursued Charlene Shepherd, but in the end, she’s committed to joining the Mean Green family.
“I love the coaches,” Charlene Shepherd said, “the players that are already there, that’s my future teammates.
“I feel like I fit in perfectly when I went on my visit.”
Alderson, who has watched Charlene Shepherd grow as a player, believes that she’s prepared for what the future holds.
“She may have to start at the bottom,” Alderson said. “She may start at the top, but she’s just got to be prepared for whatever she’s going to get.
“Be focused mentally and prepared physically.”
As for Charlene Shepherd, “I’m looking forward to everything.
“Anything God has coming towards me I feel like I’m ready for it.”
Although this season has just begun, Charlene Shepherd already has her goal set for next season.
North Texas head coach Jalie Mitchell is the all-time leading scorer for the Mean Green.
“I’m trying to break that,” Charlene Shepherd said.
As Charlene Shepherd prepares for her final season with the Lady Grey Wolves before moving on, Alderson had a few words of wisdom for playing at the next level, “She has to stay focused in school and grades and listen to her coaches,” Alderson said. “Do what they ask and… I can see her as being a conference leader, Conference USA leader, easy.”
Before the ink could dry on the paper, Alderson invited her friends to take photos with Charlene Shepherd in front of the Shoemaker High School official backdrop and enjoy some cake to celebrate this moment in Grey Wolves’ history.
Charlene Shepherd has played with girls from all over the Killeen area in summer leagues and developed friendships with them, Patricia Shepherd said.
“That’s what makes this special,” she said. “She’s really supported and she’s got a lot of friends and family who love her.”
“It’s a very happy occasion to see the support and love in the gym today,” Alderson said.