March 21, 2013
Winton’s outstanding career comes to close
By Christina Sanders
“You know,” Coach Kate Peterson-Abaid starts, “It will never really quite hit me, until the next group comes in next year, and she’s not there,” Cleveland State women’s basketball coach says looking off and back over at graduating senior Shalonda Winton who is seated to the right of her.
The press room is nearly empty at this point.
The excitement and stir from senior day is starting to settle. The emotions are the elephant in the room, that everyone is trying to ignore.
Winton, the third all-time leading scorer in Cleveland State Women’s basketball history, has just played her final game in the Wolstein Center as a Cleveland State Viking.
Saturday’s game brought a regular season conclusion to a spectacular storybook career, which Winton never thought that she would have.
“There are no words,” she says reflecting on her career, “the opportunity that was given to me, I’m just so thankful.”
After Coach Kate Peterson-Abaid finished watching the 2008 Women’s Final Four in Cleveland and she turned to one of her assistant coaches and said, “I want a LaToya Pringle.”
“I want a kid that was everywhere and had a lot energy, that would never stop playing,” Peterson-Abaid says, recalling her thoughts of the former University of North Carolina post-player.
Her assistant coach had a player in mind.
“When he first told me, I was skeptical because, you know I wanted LaToya Pringle, I got better.”
Winton the 5-11 all around player from Pittsburgh, PA never stops playing.
“She eats, sleeps, and breathes basketball. From the time that she wakes up to the time she goes to bed it’s basketball, that’s all she does,” a classmate says of Winton, looking completely befuddled, “that’s why she’s so good, I guess.”
Peterson-Abaid has been coaching women’s basketball for over 22 years and she says that she has never coached a player that has loved the game of basketball more the Winton.
“Shay is just not going to not play basketball,” she says of her star player.
After basketball practice Winton heads directly over to the Cleveland State Recreation center and plays pick-up basketball with students and members of the community until everyone leaves the gym.
On most days the cafeteria is closed by the time that she leaves the gym.
“Ugh, it kills us,” Abaid says of Winton’s constantly playing basketball outside of practice and games. “The other day we gave them the day off to rest their legs, and you could hear her yelling through the door, “Want to go to the rec!?, but who is going to tell Shay that she can’t play basketball?” Abaid says looking at Winton and sighing.
A Cleveland State women’s basketball assistant coach first saw Winton at a tournament and began a friendship with her that would eventually lead to her choosing to play at Cleveland State.
“We didn’t think that we could get her. She was too good,” Abaid reflects, “One of my assistant coaches had formed a relationship with her and that helped a lot.”
She had committed to the Vikings but had yet to take the SAT exam. She took it in Columbus during down time of a basketball tournament.
After taking the exam she never checked her scores until the Cleveland State coaching staff asked her to do so during another tournament.
“We were frantic, we wanted to check but we didn’t have her password or anything,” the coach says.
Upon seeing that she had passed, they offered her a scholarship. The coaching staff’s loyalty throughout the recruiting process is what ultimately made her choose Cleveland State.
“I wasn’t so good at academics and they really believed in me. Coach P never gave up on me,” Winton says looking at her coach and looking off.
During Winton’s freshman year she was a role player.
During the summer before her freshman year she was told that she would be starting. Winton was floored.
She rose to the occasion.
“She has accepted the fact that she must play well in order for us to succeed,” says Abaid.
Winton would go on to break numerous records and even threatened to take down a 654 point single season scoring record set by former Viking Kailey Klein five seasons ago. Unfortunately the Lady Vikings’ season was cut short in the first round of the Horizon league tournament with a loss to Youngstown State, and she wasn’t able to break that record.
Winton finished her stellar career leading the Horizon League in scoring (22.1 ppg) and second in rebounding (10.6 rpg). She finished top ten in the country in scoring with likes of WNBA prospects Britney Griner and Elena Delle Donne. She was named Horizon League Defensive player of the year.
In the Cleveland State Vikings record books, her name is a fixature in nearly every category. She is the all-time leader in rebounds (1,071), offensive rebounds (373) and games started (116). She is third on the all-time scoring list (1,821).