Shalonda Winton always believed that somewhere in college basketball, she would find a place to succeed and make an impact.
She found that place at Cleveland State, and, now, in her senior year, she is having the impact she always dreamed of having.
After a standout career at Westinghouse High School, Winton flew under the recruiters' radar.
But now Cleveland State is 4-4 going into its game Sunday at Tennessee State. The Vikings have won three consecutive games after beating Miami of Ohio behind Winton's 29 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. She became the fourth player in Cleveland State women's history to record a triple-double.
In her senior season, Winton (5 feet 11) is averaging 23.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game and is ranked fifth in Division I in scoring.
When Vikings coach Kate Peterson Abiad recruited Winton she said she had watched her play for a long time and was amazed at her potential, but was unsure they could get her to come to the school. The day that Winton committed, the coaching staff celebrated because they knew she could become that special player they had been seeking.
In Winton's freshman season a spot opened in the starting lineup. Peterson Abiad knew she had to make a decision for the future of her program.
"I had a lot of people to choose from, but I felt I needed to make the move to put Shalonda in the starting lineup because I knew in the long run she had the most potential," Peterson Abiad said.
In that season, Winton gained experience that helped her become a better team player while the Vikings won the Horizon League championship and made the NCAA tournament.
Winton credits her success to playing in the City League for coach Phyllis Jones at Westinghouse.
"Coach Jones has always cared about me, she taught me so many things about basketball and also about growing up," Winton said. "She basically nurtured me to become the player I am today. She always tries to motivate me any way she can."
Jones said motivating players as much as possible is always a key factor to her student-athletes finding success.
"One of the things we try to strive for with our program is once you become a Lady Bulldog we make a commitment to make you become as successful as possible both academically and athletically," Jones said.
Winton said she hopes to continue playing basketball after college.
"I see a bright future for her in basketball after college," Jones said.
"It's something she has always wanted and worked hard for, and I feel that she has earned that opportunity."
Whether she gets a tryout with a WNBA team or has an opportunity to play overseas, Winton has shown she is up for the challenge.
Eddy Montalvo: firstname.lastname@example.org.