The Lone Senior

Those who have not been close observers of Washington basketball for long may not believe it, but less than five years ago, this program played in the NCAA Tournament. Names such as Todd MacCulloch, Donald Watts, and Deon Luton ran the courts of "Old Hec Ed" en route to an encore appearance at the "Big Dance." Also on the team was a wide-eyed freshmen out of Rochester, Michigan by the name of Marlon Shelton, and today, he is the last link to those glory days.

"It's amazing man," said Shelton when asked to describe the emotions of the NCAA Tournament. "Even though Wally Szczerbiak busted us for 40-something points, you can't trade the experience for anything.

"It just makes you feel so good and feel like you've accomplished something."

It was the highlight of a career. Shelton would never get a taste of any post-season tournament, let alone a winning season the next few years. In fact, the Huskies would go 31-58 the next three years. "To be losing like we did was such a reality check," Shelton said.

Out of high school, Shelton's claim to fame was that of being the son of former Seattle Supersonic Lonnie Shelton. He was one of the lesser-known players in a recruiting class that featured highly touted point guard Senque Carey, and local product Grant Leep out of Mount Vernon. The class also featured an O'Dea High School superstar by the name of Doug Wrenn, whose well-documented path to Washington, can be saved for another time and article.

"I was an early verbal commit to ASU," Shelton recalled of his recruiting process. "That changed because of the coaching change. Newman was the interim coach for (Bill) Freider at the time and we had a pretty good relationship back then. Then Rob Evans came in and we didn't really get a chance to meet but both of us were kind of drawn back from the commitment so it was like a mutual thing."

"It was between West Virginia and Washington. West Virginia told me that they didnt have any more scholarships available but UW did so this was the logical choice for me."

Shelton points to his family as his main source of support, but he picked out Donald Watts as the one who has helped him the most, not just with his game, but as his "older brother" figure.

"When I first got here, I just expected him as a senior, to just give me a hard time, play his final year, and get on out of here," said Shelton. "But it wasn't like that. He always helped me out in my hard times even after he garduated."

There were plenty of hard times in Shelton's career. The medical report takes up almost half of his last two seasons in his team member biography. Shelton sat out all of last year after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the second to the last game of his junior season in 2001. After undergoing surgery, he was expected to be back and ready to go for the 2002 season after a summer of rehab, but suffered another setback when he re-injured the same knee and underwent a second surgery to repair the ACL.

"That was the hardest part," Shelton recalled. "It was hard having to just watch from the sidelines and not being able to do anything about the losing. At time I just stayed on the bike because I couldn't stand to just watch practice."

It is a similar situation as to what freshmen center Anthony Washington. Though not as severe of an injury, Washington has been nursing a sprained ankle and still has no date set on a return.

"I know exactly how Anthony feels right now. I just tell him to keep his head up because he has a chance to return soon."

Another transition Shelton had to go through was the changing of the guards bewteen Bob Bender and Lorenzo Romar. A cloud of mystery came over Shelton's head as to what his role on the same team under the leadership of a different coach would be. Luckily, Romar knew what kind of individual Shelton is.

"Marlon is a fantastic, and I emphasize fantastic, individual," said first-year head coach. "He's a fifth year senior and he hasn't played as much as he liked, and he has handled it great."

His numbers are nothing close to great, (20 games, 6.8 minutes/game, 1.3 points, 1.2 rebounds) but numbers cannot measure what he brings to the team. Shelton is one of the more vocal players in practice, yelling out instructions, offering words of encouragement, and giving lectures when the time calls for it.

The younger Huskies were eager to share their thoughts on Shelton.

"Marlon is the ‘stabilizer,'" said sophomore guard Will Conroy. "I have never seen him bicker about playing time or anything. He is the type of person who would lead by example and we all listen to him because he has seen it all."

Brandon Roy referred to Shelton as the "quiet leader" of the team, and Bobby Jones referred to him as his "big brother."

"(Shelton) He was my host," recalled Jones of his recruiting trip to Seattle. "He took me everywhere in the summer when I first came up. He showed me around the city and he's always got my back when it comes to everything in life."

Shelton gives everything he has each and every time he is on the court. Taking a handful of knee ointment and applying it onto his or troubled left knee, Shelton jogs onto the court ready for another round of a hard fought practice.

"He's been nothing but a positive influence," said Romar. "When you watch him play five minutes, two minutes, or no minutes, he's up cheering and supporting his teammates. A lot of people wouldn't do that as a fifth-year senior."

A political science major, Shelton has no worries about his future away from the court.

"Coach Romar knows a lot of people, and I'm sure my future will be ok."

"Former Huskies such as Donald Watts, Eldridge Recasner, and Brent Merritt routinely stop by practices to check up on us and make sure we're upholding the Husky tradition," Shelton said.

"Pretty soon I'll be doing the same thing." Top Stories