Prep Basketball: West's Steele signs with Morehead State
MOUNT ULLA - West Rowan begins the basketball season at home on Tuesday, and Shay Steele has a reasonable chance to score the 1,000th point of her career on the opening night of her senior year.
She needs 23 to become just the 11th West girl to reach the milestone. This will be West's 54th hoops season.
The important thing to know about Steele, however, is that scoring is the third-best thing she does. While it's true she's expected to be one of the area's top scorers, she could be one of the state's best rebounders and one of the nation's elite shotblockers.
The 6-foot-2 Steele had a chance to go a lot of places and picked Morehead State. She put her signature on a full scholarship offer from the Division I Eagles in the early signing period.
"It was a decision based on my relationship with Morehead State's coaches," Steele said. "They offered me back in April, and I just really felt comfortable with the coaches and the school."
Morehead State is in the Kentucky foothills, between Lexington, Ky., and Huntington, W. Va. Oddly enough, the college is located in Rowan County, although it's a seven-hour drive from that other Rowan County in North Carolina where Steele has grown up.
"I won't be homesick," Steele said. "I'm used to traveling a long way to play basketball."
In a press release, Morehead coach Tom Hodges sounded like he'd just won the lottery.
"Adding Shay to our program is an off-the-charts coup for our staff and university," he said. "She has the size, length and athleticism to play in any league in America."
Steele is a very good student who wants to become a pediatric nurse, and she's blessed with unusual athletic gifts that should make her an exceptional college player.
It's not just her height, it's her wingspan and her speed. She's competes at the state level in track at 400 meters, and if West coach Todd McNeely had a dollar for every time Steele blocked a shot and finished a fastbreak on the other end herself, he could think about retiring early.
The left-handed Steele has been All-Rowan County and All-North Piedmont Conference three straight seasons. She went scoreless against Salisbury the first nervous game of her career, but a week later she scored in double figures for the first time and hasn't looked back.
She averaged 8.6 points per game as a freshman, 13.3 as a sophomore and 16.6 as a junior.
She's scored in double figures 56 times in a West uniform, including 22 of the 23 games she played in as a junior. She missed four games with a concussion.
Steele scored a career-high 33 against North Rowan last season. She's no stranger to the triple-double, and her all-world shotblocking skills makes her a threat to produce one of those basketball rarities every time she takes the floor.
McNeely always has been impressed with Steele, but he saw her make strides in every phase of the game over the summer and fall.
"Shay just had an awesome summer, and she's gotten better," he said. "I drove Shay and some other girls up to Morehead for a camp, and she was head and shoulders above everyone there. Morehead's uptempo style should be a good fit for Shay, and they have been after her hard."
Morehead plays in the Ohio Valley Conference against such schools as Murray State and Eastern Kentucky. It also plays a tough schedule outside the league. In the past week, the Eagles, who have no seniors, have lost to Xavier, Cincinnati and Kentucky.
They'll get plenty of help in 2013-14 from Steele, who averaged 11.5 rebounds, 7.0 blocks and 4.0 steals as a junior and is ranked 27th nationally among forwards by ESPN Hoop Gurlz.
"Shay's abilities and skills are the type of player we haven't had here at Morehead State," Hodges said. "Her potential is off the charts."