The second leading scorer in the history of the Belleville West girls basketball program with more than 1,600 career points, Belleville West senior Shay Fluker is a little more than a month removed from a senior season in which she averaged 20.8 points, was nominated for Miss Basketball in Illinois and earned second team all-state recognition.
Still, Fluker isn’t content. Six days a week for several hours, Fluker is at the local YMCA working on her game and more specifically her jump shot. Included among her work out are 300 to 400 shots per day. And on Sunday?
“It’s closed so we can’t go,” Fluker said. “On Sunday, my dad and I may work on my ball-handling. Or we might sit at home and watch basketball and talk about basketball. It’s pretty much basketball, basketball, basketball for me.”“I’ve been playing since I was in the fourth grade. I feel like God has given me this gift to play basketball and I want to work hard in order to make the most out of this gift.”
Voted by metro-east coaches as the Belleville News-Democrat Class 3A-4A Player of the Year, the 5-foot-10 Fluker has been a mainstay on a Belleville West team that has been among the best in the St. Louis area during her three-year varsity career. This season, Fluker and teammate Imani Berry helped lead the Maroons to a second place finish in the Southwestern Conference, a Class 4A Regional championship and a win at the Highland Tournament.
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Fluker was named as the most valuable player of the Highland Tournament.
“It was a good year. It could have been better had we been able to beat Edwardsville in the sectional semifinal. I thought this was the year we may get them. But credit goes to them. They have a great program,” Fluker said. “I can’t believe my high school career is over.
“We were watching game tapes just the other day and there have been a lot of ups and downs, a lot of happy moments, sad moments and crazy moments. I’m going to miss the coaches and my teammates, but I’m ready for the next step of my career.”
Stronger and more mature both on and off the court, Fluker struggled to find her shooting touch early in the season. But after a memorable fourth quarter performance in the title game of the Mascoutah Holiday Tournament, Fluker was virtually unstoppable the second half of the season.
Playing against eventual Class 2A state runner-up Central in the title game at Mascoutah, Fluker scored 17 points in the final quarter to rally the Maroons. Central, which handed West two of its six losses, won the game in overtime.
West coach Clayton Fisher said it was when he noticed a change in Fluker.
“Right after Christmas is when I thought she started doing whatever she wanted as far as scoring and taking the basketball to the basket,” Fisher said.
“Shay wasn’t shooting the ball that well early. She was rushing things a little bit. About halfway through the season her shot selection got better and I’d say in the last 15 games or so, every time she shot the basketball I thought it was going in.”
Fluker was also a more mature player in all areas of her game this season. Relying on her raw athletic ability in the past, Fluker at times played out of control and forced questionable shots. This season as a senior and one of the Maroons team leaders, a more confident Fluker let the game come to her.
“I think a lot of its comes from being a senior and more mature. I mean, this is it. This was my last year to play high school basketball and I’ve got to make the most of it. I had a better understanding of the game and what I should and shouldn’t do at different times during the game,” Fluker said. “There were times when I took shots that maybe I shouldn’t have and times when I forced things that weren’t there, but I felt like I made better decisions with the basketball.
“Again, I think that has to do with being a senior and more mature.”
Fluker will be playing college basketball at some level next year. Several top junior college programs have offered scholarships as have many four year schools. Fisher has litle doubt Fluker can play at the NCAA Division I level if she chooses too.
“Like all kids, Shay needs to work on her defense and handling the basketball a little better. Skills wise she’s got all the tools. She’s big, strong, quick and can shoot it. Plus she’s left-handed and a lot of college coaches like that,” Fisher said.
“My thought is that she’ll go to a Division I junior college for a year or two, then go play at the NCAA Division I level someplace, Where will she end up, that’s up to her. I think she’ll be able to play at a lot of places.”
When Fluker does make up her mind on a college, it probably won’t be anywhere close.
“I’m thinking I’d like to go somewhere 8-12 hours away. Get a fresh start in a new place,” Fluker said. “I’m looking around. It’s all pretty much up in the air right now. I could go (NCAA) division I. but a lot of the division I coaches I’m talking too want me to go to a junior college for a year then go to a division I school.
“I know its going to be a lot of work. But this is what I’ve wanted since I started playing basketball — a chance to play in college,”