Shameka Christon – Arkansas
The start of basketball in the SEC has its rituals. “Whenever we’re on campus,” says Arkansas’ star forward Shameka Christon, “people ask, ‘How good are you guys?’ And we say, ‘We’re really good.’ Then they ask, ‘But what about Tennessee?'” she says with a laugh. “Cause that’s the first name that comes up.”
Christon and her teammates take pride participating in what many consider the toughest basketball conference. “We’re playing against the top teams in the country,” says the 6’1″ forward. “It’s just going to motivate us.”
Not that Christon needs much more motivation. Last year, she was Arkansas’ leading scorer with 16.7 ppg and second rebounder with 6.2 rpg. She led the team in blocked shots and was third in steals.
“Everything we have asked of her and told her would happen so far has happened,” said Coach Gary Blair. “Two NCAA tournaments, all-SEC two years and two summers representing the USA. Now we need an all-America year out of her, and for Shameka to become a leader on this team.”
Christon has embraced those expectations. “You have to learn to deal with the pressure – because if you’re a leader on the team and you’re cracking under pressure, the rest of the team is going to fall.”
Arkansas is a young team, and Christon realizes players are looking to her and seniors India Lewis and Dana Cherry, (both fellow Arkansanians), to set an example. “They’re watching you. [Being] a great leader means doing what is needed for your team. Taking control when things are bad – either on or off the court. Making sure your team is staying together and communicating.”
With a goal of reaching the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen, Christon can barely contain her excitement as she considers the potential of the five incoming freshman – including highly touted Arkansas native Ruby Vaden.
“They are tremendous,” she says. “They work hard, they want to learn, they are VERY talented. What I love most about them is their heart,” explains Christon. “They’re dedicated to what they do. They don’t give up, whatever the circumstances. This is the best talent we’ve had at Arkansas for a long time. I just can’t wait to see what the end results will be.”