Shavonte Zellous is one of the most recognizable names in Pitt basketball history. The third-leading scorer in Panthers history, Zellous compiled 2,251 points over her illustrious collegiate career. The athletic guard and three-time All-Big East first team honoree is ranked statistically in nearly every category in the Pitt women's basketball record book.
The No. 11 overall selection in the 2009 WNBA Draft has enjoyed a successful career in both the WNBA and overseas. She averaged 18.6 points for Turkish league club Mersin BSB last season and re-signed with the squad in July.
Zellous averaged 7.5 points and 2.7 rebounds for the Indiana Fever this summer, while earning a start in all 31 regular season games. The Fever are currently battling the Atlanta Dream in the Eastern Conference semifinal series with game three in the series slated for Tuesday in Indianapolis. Zellous had 15 points on Sunday to help lead the Fever to a 103-88 win and even the best-of-three series at a game apiece.
We caught up with Zellous for a chat after a Fever
practice to see what the former Panther great has been up to.
We caught up with Zellous for a chat after a Fever practice to see what the former Panther great has been up to.
Q: Does it seem like forever since you were in the hallways of the Petersen Events Center?
Zellous: It feels like it's been 10 years, but it's only been like four or five years (laughing). Coach Berenato came down to Atlanta and saw me (play) a few weeks ago, but I know it's tough during recruiting to see too many games. I still talk to Coach a lot and love catching up.
Q: When you look back on your experience at Pitt, what do you most remember?
Zellous: I mean I wouldn't trade that for anything because the coaching staff gave me the opportunity that many other colleges in America didn't.
I just felt loved and appreciated there and with Coach Berenato she always makes you feel at home. I wouldn't trade my time at Pitt for anything in the world. I'm glad they gave me that opportunity and it helped me get to the next step and the place I am today.
Q: How have you seen yourself develop in your short time in the WNBA?
Zellous: The level of competition has improved greatly and I feel blessed. All I can do is thank God. I worked hard during the off-season and in Europe to get where I am today. There's still more room for improvement and I'm going to improve on that this year. But you know I'm just blessed and I so appreciate everyone, especially Coach B and her staff, for giving me the opportunity and for recognizing how hard I worked to get to this place. I have some amazing teammates here in Indiana, so they have also really helped my game get to the next level.
Q: Basketball is a full-time job for you. Where do you go after the WNBA season concludes and at times do you have to pinch yourself and say 'wow, I am living my dream?'
Zellous: I'm going back to Turkey, with my old team Mersin. I am very excited, but yes I do play pretty much every single month of the year. I really wouldn't trade it for anything. Yeah, everybody dreams about it, but the actually reality about it is just that -- I am still playing and doing what I love.
Q: Do you keep touch with your former Pitt teammates?
Zellous: We keep in touch periodically, but it is tough because we are all over. Some are in parts of Europe and different countries, so it's really nice to see them on the road and play 'remember when.' One funny thing is that Sam (Young) is now playing for the Pacers so I get to see him now a lot. So, it's like an amazing thing -- two Pitt grads living the dream we all thought and wished for.
Q: What do you tell future Pitt Panthers that want to live the same dream?
Zellous: Just keep working. You know, whenever somebody's not looking you should be working even harder. That's what got me here. I was going to the gym in the morning and night, after classes, before classes, just to get what I needed to get done. Just do whatever you need to do; I did all of that. If you want to live your dream I think it takes work and so that's what I did.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory from your time at Pitt?
Zellous: You know I can't say enough about my last year when we went overseas to Greece and Italy. That was a memory that I will always remember because no one had been overseas and it helped prepare us for what the future held and made us a tight-knit group, a lot closer. Even though we didn't advance to the Elite Eight that trip was a very notable trip for me. Of course, anytime you can get to the Sweet 16 (two consecutive years) when the team hasn't even been to the NCAA's before is always just a blessing. Just to get there, to the NCAA Tournament was something pretty special.
Q: What are some of the things that you learned at Pitt that you have definitely taken on to the next level, either on the court or off?
Zellous: First, I would say manners. Coach B always taught me about manners; manners get you everywhere. Saying please, thank you, you're welcome ... anything like that. That's rule number one off the court. I learned that from Coach Berenato even though my mother instilled it was Coach B that drove that point home. Last week, I was at a playoff rally and I said 'ma'am' to this lady and she said 'aw please don't call me ma'am'. I said, 'I'm sorry that's just how I was brought up and how I was raised'.
Secondly, I would say on the court -- every day somebody is getting better, every year it's a new field of talent coming in and you have to always be on your game. I think that's what I'm doing every year: staying on my game because I know there's new blood coming in and I'm not trying to let anyone take my spot.