Basketball always seemed more of hobby than a sport for Shelby Martinez.
Softball had always been the Raymore-Peculiar senior’s primary passion. Hoops was just something she did during the offseason, which made being part of an all-star basketball team last week seem almost surreal.
“I had no idea I would ever play in an all-star game,” Martinez said. “The credit is to my coaches, of course, because from where I started freshman year to where I am now is a drastic change. You wouldn’t believe it.”
Martinez, a 6-foot senior center, became good enough at basketball to be selected to the Missouri girls’ team for the annual Kansas vs. Missouri High School All-Star Challenge, which took place April 13 at Avila University’s Mabee Fieldhouse.
She was picked after a senior season that landed her on the Suburban Gold All-Conference team and a determined effort to improve her game.
Martinez already was an established star in softball entering the season. She made second-team all-conference and earned all-district and all-region honors playing outfield for the Panthers.
Her career .529 batting average ranks fifth all-time at Ray-Pec, and she’s also in the career top 10 for on-base percentage (.463), doubles (21) and home runs (eight).
The basketball skills took longer to develop when Martinez started playing for longtime coach Brad Gaines, who retired and was replaced by Jonathan Benson after her junior season.
“Coach Gaines came in early almost every single morning with me my sophomore year and helped me become a lot better and able to play at the varsity level,” Martinez said, “so I owe a lot of success to him.”
The extra work paid off by the time Martinez was a senior. She averaged 12.5 points and 8.6 points per game and made 50.2 percent of her shots from the field for a Panthers team that finished 12-13 overall and 4-8 in conference play. She started all 25 games and averaged 27 minutes a game.
Martinez didn’t start during the annual all-star event sponsored by the Greater Kansas City High School Basketball Coaches Association and Nike last week, but she still saw plenty of playing time. She scored four points, including an and-one when she was fouled on a put-back at the end of the second quarter, and muscled in for a couple of offensive rebounds during the Missouri team’s 66-63 overtime victory versus the Kansas stars.
Afterward, she left the floor feeling like she held her own playing with and against future NCAA Division I players like Lee’s Summit North’s Aiyana Johnson (Stephen F. Austin), Olathe East’s Sydney Wilson (Missouri State) and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Sereena Weledji (Penn).
“I thought I did the best I could and it was just fun to get out there and play with everybody,” Martinez said. “I just loved playing with these girls. It was very exciting. And when we went into overtime it was even more exciting.”
Martinez is playing softball again this summer, but after that she says her athletic career is over. She will head off to Kansas State next fall to be a regular student.
She certainly did get to make her last basketball game a memorable one.
“I’ve never really met most of these girls before,” Martinez said, “so it was a really cool experience meeting all these new people and making new friends.”