MORRISON – The first two years of Shelby Veltrop’s high school basketball career were very successful from an individual standpoint.
Far less from a team perspective. In Veltrop’s first two seasons with the Morrison girls’ program, the Fillies won just once in 37 games.
“The first two years that we played at varsity and we destroyed almost every single game, it was tough,” said the 6-foot-3 forward. “It hurts your confidence and ego a bit. My junior year was so different when we finally started winning.”
A double-double averaging 16.1 points and 10 rebounds per game last winter, Veltrop helped Morrison to an 18-8 finish, his first winning season in five years.
The success of this week’s Illinois Pacesetter continues at every level. With 19.8 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game, Veltrop has the fillies 18-7 and well into the title race in the West Division of the Three Rivers Conference.
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“This year has been exciting, with people coming to our games and what they’re saying about us as a team,” said Veltrop, who hit 1,000 career points during Morrison’s run to first place at the Pearl City Holiday Tournament earlier this season; she is at 1,286 points and counting.
“I’ve never thought about it (to score 1,000 points) that much,” she added. “It was cool to achieve something, but it wasn’t my goal. The numbers are good, but winning is the most important thing for me. I like to win. I think about that more.”
Veltrop also put up 3.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game, tallying 21 points and adding six assists in a 69-36 conference win over Riverdale last Monday. Last week she had 29 points in a 71-38 win over Orion.
Two weeks ago she helped Morrison to three wins including TRAC West wins over Sherrard and Orion. The earlier win was huge for the Fillies, who are 6-2, trailing only the Tigers (8-1) and Monmouth-Roseville (7-1) in league standings.
“I knew the group Shelby came with had a lot of talent and it was initially my intention to keep her in the JV,” said Morrison coach Kerry Grim. “Then it became clear that in order to be pushed harder and to get better, she had to play at varsity level.”
With her classmates and younger sister Camryn, a sophomore forward eventually joining Veltrop at varsity level, the turnaround was dramatic to say the least.
“Definitely my sophomore year, I knew raising her would help us a lot,” she said. “I just played through my first two years, trying to stay strong while thinking about the future. I was definitely looking to the future.”
This season, Veltrop has also shown more offensive versatility. After playing on the ground in all three positions, she has become a bigger threat as a 3-point shooter.
“Shelby was never a outside shooter, but she’s one of the best pure shooters we have,” Grim said. “When we have her and her sister low down the teams pack the lane on us so we decided to take Shelby outside and she hit more 3s. It was fun to see that.”
Not only did Veltrop hit the 1,000-point plateau, but he also won the Most Valuable Player award at last month’s Cliff Warkins Memorial Classic in Erie after helping the Fillies win three out of four tournament games.
“That surprised me a bit,” she said. “Earlier this year I was happy for Camryn when she made the All at Pearl City. I was in Warkins All last year and I was just hoping to get that again this year.
What Veltrop hopes most as her prep basketball career comes to an end is to help Morrison have a longer run in the postseason to cement the program’s success of the past two years.
The Fillies entered the 2022 IHSA Playoffs with hopes of bringing home their first regional championship since ’07. Instead, it turned out to be a short stint as they lost 50-39 to regional hosts Lanark Eastland in their opener.
“It was so hard,” said Veltrop. “I felt like we lost a bit of momentum towards the end of the year. I hope we can keep our momentum this year and bring it into the postseason.”