Injury doesn't deter Shelton

Earnest Shelton had never seen his ring finger on his right (shooting) hand look like that before. Just a few seconds into Bama's recent exhibition contest against Global Sports, Shelton was forced to exit the game.

"I was chasing after a rebound," Earnest Shelton said. "I got knocked off balance. I thought it was jammed until I looked down and saw my finger looked like a complete 'L'."

Shelton saw his season almost come to an end. His head coach, Mark Gottfried, saw the same thing. Thankfully, the trainer was there to soothe the pain well. His finger still hurt, but it wasn't nearly as bad as originally feared.

"I thought it was a broken," the junior guard said. "That's what I went and told coach. I thought the worst, but once I saw the trainer, he said it was dislocated and he popped it back into place and I got back out there."

He got back out there, and proceeded to score 22 points, leading his team to a 75-69 victory. The pain was there, but it didn't seem to have much of an impact.

"As far as shooting the ball, it really doesn't bother me," Shelton said. "It only bothers me when I catch it."

Shelton averaged 4.9 points last season as a reserve, but knew he had to step up the scoring with the departures of starters Mo Williams, Terrance Meade, Erwin Dudley, and Kenny Walker. He did just that in the exhibition game, hitting 7 of 11 shots.

Earnest Shelton leans in to take the shot. This season he'lll be counted on to provide much of Bama's offense. (AP photo)

"It's a challenge that I have to respond to," Shelton said. "I try to be positive about it. My teammates look to me and they have a lot of faith in me scoring. They help me score by setting screens and penetrating, and I try to respond by knocking down open shots and doing whatever it takes to help our team win."

For Shelton, the key is consistency. It's what he worked on throughout the off-season.

"Day in and day out, I worked on my consistency," Shelton said. "Last year I'd come in and go 10 for 10 one day and 1 for 10 the next day. Day in and day out, I tried to come in and knock down the open shots and be more aggressive."

Gottfried has noticed. Shelton will be counted on as one of the scoring threats along with small forward Kennedy Winston, and has worked hard to step up.

"I think he's more aggressive," Gottfried said. "He's a guy that with last year with the seniors and Mo, he didn't ever feel like it was his place to step forward. It seems like a natural thing has happened; those guys are gone, and he seems to have a different mindset and is real aggressive, and needs to be."

Gottfried also pointed out that Shelton has added a little bit of quickness, partly in result to shedding some pounds.

"He came in here even as a freshman with a lot of baby fat," Gottfried said. "You look at him and he's always been a little pudgy. He still needs to be a little stronger and a little thinner around the waist and a little quicker."

Shelton will start at the shooting guard position when the Tide opens up its season in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic Friday against Pittsburgh in New York's Madison Square Garden. The game will tip off at 6 p.m. and be shown on ESPN2.

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