Shearer looks to remain hot on and off the court

Matt Gottfried

Lindsay Shearer isn’t accustomed to coming off the bench.

The senior forward has started 82 of the 88 games played during her three years at Kent State, seeing action in every single one of those games. Though the quiet leader says very little off the court, her numbers generated on the court have done plenty of talking.

“She wants to be a great player,” coach Bob Lindsay said. “Her willingness to do extra work to be good, I think that’s what makes anyone go from being good to being great. There are only a certain amount of players at the college level willing to put in the amount of time and effort to be good, and she is one of those players.”

Shearer recorded a team-high 516 points last season to earn Mid-American Conference Player of the Year and All-American consideration. She averaged 17.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season en route to her second-straight first-team All-MAC selection.

Yet with all her accolades, Shearer is still in search of her biggest goal: a MAC title.

“My main thing is just to win the MAC championship,” Shearer said. “I don’t care how we get it or how many points I score. But to do well as a team, I’m going to have to be one of the top leaders on the team, whether it’s scoring or rebounding.

“The main thing we have to do this season is just to not take any game for granted.”

Last year, the Flashes fell just short of accomplishing that feat as they lost to Bowling Green 81-76 in the MAC championship game.

In that contest, Shearer turned in one of the greatest performances in MAC history. She scored 44 of her team’s 76 points, while hauling in 11 rebounds. Those 44 points were the third highest output recorded by any player in all of Division -I basketball last season.

“Every time I pass the ball to Shearer, I’m quite sure I’m going to get an assist or she’s going to put two points up from the free throw line,” senior point guard Malika Willoughby said. “Having Shearer has helped me a lot, letting me know I can pass the ball to someone with confidence that she’s going to make the basket.

“She can also dominate in the post. If she keeps that up, I’m going to keep getting her the ball so she can score 44 points.”

Willoughby has also started every game during her two years as a Flash. Though remaining injury-free has played a significant role in accomplishing that feat, the seniors feel it’s the effort displayed on the court that has allowed them to crack the starting lineup game after game.

“Coach Lindsay doesn’t look at if you’re a good player or if you can pass the ball,” Willoughby said. “If you can go out there and play hard every time, you’re going to play a lot. If you go out there and play hard, hustle and get the loose balls and take some charges, you’re going to be on the floor.”

“They just like to play, and they don’t let little nagging injuries keep them out of the lineup,” Lindsay added.

Shearer has improved in nearly every statistical category from her freshman year to what is now her senior year. She jumped from 256 points as a freshman to 404 her sophomore year before recording her 516 points last season. Between her freshman and sophomore season, she doubled her assist output to more than 60. And in each of the past two seasons, she’s hauled in over 200 rebounds to go along with her 60-plus rebounds.

“She’s a lot stronger and knows the game a lot better from when she came in as a freshman,” Lindsay said. “Her skill level has improved every year, and she’s just physically stronger. Lindsay has put on a lot of muscle since her freshman year from working hard in the off-season during weight training and winter workouts.”

Duplicating last year’s numbers won’t be easy for Shearer, as the departure of Melissa DeGrate – the team’s only other player with 500 or more points – opens up the opportunity for the opposing defense to key in on her. The added pressure is something she has prepared for all off-season.

“I’ve felt a lot of added pressure, especially during practice because coach has a high level of expectations for me,” Shearer said. “He’s on me every day in practice and when we are practicing, he’s always having the defense send two to three people on me just to get me used to that kind of pressure. I’ll definitely have to step it up this season in order to reach last season’s numbers.”

The lone senior to graduate last season was DeGrate, who finished second on the team in scoring with 500 points. DeGrate combined with Shearer and Willoughby to form a dominating offensive threat, a threat Lindsay said he hopes will see very little setback with the emergence of a couple underclassmen.

“We have to find some people to pick up the slack with DeGrate leaving, and Shearer is certainly a returning First Team all-conference player who can do that,” Lindsay said. “She has to play like that the whole season for us to be successful. It’s a big challenge for a team to find someone to step up and achieve more than what they did the previous season, sometimes they just sit there and get satisfied with what they’ve done. You can’t be like that, you have to keep pushing yourself.”

The two-time Academic All-American has excelled both on and off the court with a 3.9 grade point average, providing the leadership skills Lindsay describes to be of a more lead-by-example type. But with four seniors and five juniors, Shearer doesn’t feel any extra burden to be the sole leader.

“I know I’m definitely a leader on this team from all the playing time I’ve had and the experience I’ve had,” Shearer said. “I’ve just got to go out to practice and play hard. I’m not the only leader on this team, though, with four seniors and even the five juniors. It’s just our job as juniors and seniors to go out there and play hard and let the underclassmen see the standard we set so they have something to live up to.”

As a sophomore, Shearer was selected to the First-Team All-MAC, just the second sophomore in the program’s history to accomplish such a feat. For her efforts, she was selected as the team’s Most Valuable Player that season.

The following year she scored in double figures in all but one game to mark the second-straight year she lead the team in scoring. That effort led to eight double-doubles, adding to her career total of 18.

This year, the expectations for Shearer couldn’t be any higher, but she says she’s up to the task. Her main priority, however, is not her individual performance, but rather her team’s performance.

“Like I said before, my main goal this season is to hopefully win my first MAC championship and getting that ring,” Shearer said. “I’m real excited about the chemistry of our team right now. I think with the chemistry we have as a team, we’re going to be able to come together and get through any rough spots we may encounter.”

Contact sports reporter Matt Gottfried at [email protected].