It's a big week in the life of Earnest Shelton. For the second straight week the Memphis, Tennessee, native leads the SEC in scoring. He's averaging 19.4 points after nine games, five of those games against 2004 NCAA tournament teams.
But it's his upcoming weekend that he says will be really special. Shelton will arrive at Coleman Coliseum early Saturday morning and will graduate from The University of Alabama with a degree in management in the School of Business in the 9 a.m. CST commencement. The Academic All-SEC three-year starter will return to the coliseum later that afternoon to join his Crimson Tide teammates as they host Tennessee State in a 6 p.m. CST game.
"This is an exciting week," said Shelton. "It's exciting that I'm going to graduate college, and it's exciting that we're going to have a game that night. It's not often someone gets to graduate and play on the same day, so it's going to be a fun day."
Shelton is graduating within three-and-a-half years time. He will begin classes toward a second degree in January. He is one of four current players on the Tide roster who will graduate this season. In May his fellow seniors Lucky Williams and Jason Reese will matriculate as will starting forward Chuck Davis who will graduate within three years as he is only a junior from the standpoint of basketball eligibility. Davis will return next fall for his senior playing season and take classes toward a second degree.
When Shelton graduates on Saturday, it will extend Coach Mark Gottfried's perfect streak to graduating 15 of 15 of his senior players in the last four and a half years. Several of those UA graduates, including 2002 SEC Player of the Year Erwin Dudley and past starters Kenny Walker, Terrance Meade, Jeremy Hays, Antoine Pettway, Tarik London, and Travis Stinnett, were all Academic All-SEC players as well.
Gottfried, a 1987 Alabama graduate (communications degree), started all three seasons he played for the Crimson Tide and was an Academic All-SEC player himself.