It’s hard to shine when the light is so bright all around you. It’s one of those, “You know you’re from Paducah when’ moments as someone mentions the Shumpert family name. Their legacy precedes them and rightfully so. 'Making the cut' in this talented clan could be overwhelming. But, Chelsey Shumpert carved out her niche to find her place in athletic royalty.
Everything the family does is a competition from athletics to singing contests. Just ask Chelsey’s parents, Ann and Junior Shumpert. Both played sports in high school and college and still compete on some level even today.
But the thing about the Shumperts is they leave it all out on the playing field and only bring back love and support to their home. The family is truly special and ‘all in’ for Chelsey.
Chelsey has always been very passionate about sports. Her focus for many years was finding the athletic activity she excelled in the most. “I was best at basketball and had a passion for it.” So, playing hoops became the dream.
Since seventh grade, basketball has been the focal point. During her four years at Paducah Tilghman High School, she was MVP and part of the All-Purchase girls basketball team. Chelsey held the title of most points ever (men or women) in the region with a mind-blowing 3,000 points during her high school basketball career. That record stood until 2017. In addition to personal success, Chelsey helped the Lady Tornadoes become district champs for three years running.
Other than playing on three different basketball travel teams during her high school years, Chelsey stayed in close proximity to her family. “I didn’t really do much besides hang with friends. The majority of my time was spent with my sisters. They made it fun for me.” Chelsey has two sisters, Natalie and Iesha and a boat load of cousins. There was always plenty of family to keep the games going.
It’s no surprise, Chelsey was offered a basketball scholarship to the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. When discussing collegiate basketball, Chelsey said the practices were ‘long and hard.’ It’s a whole new level of play. “It was something I eventually adjusted to but it never got easy.”
All the hard practice paid off. The teams Chelsey played on continued to win. While in college, the 'Scrappy Mocs' won three Southern State Championships and were a top 25 NCAA team. And if being awesome at basketball wasn't enough, Chelsey made the Dean’s list too. She received her Bachelor's Degree and majored in college sports and leisure.
After graduating from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Chelsey pursued a Master’s Degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee 2017-2018. She would play her fifth year of college and continue to excel. During this time, Union won a championship ring - Gulf South Conference, the NCAA South Region Tournament Championship, and made it to the Elite Eight. Chelsey continued to receive awards such as Player of the Year, Tournament's Most Outstanding Player and many others.
“One of my dreams was to play overseas,” said Chelsey. Because of her efforts, the dream came true and she became a Nottingham Wildcat playing in the WBBL (Women’s Basketball British League).
Chelsey’s first season of play (2018-2019) had its highs and lows. From a basketball perspective, it was a high. She was the leading scorer her first year. The low was missing her family.
“My first year I got homesick. I was a rookie and it was eight months straight.” She spent much of the summer of 2019 in the states and was able to visit her parents and other family members. Being able to catch up and be around her supportive family helped Chelsey rally the troops for the upcoming season.
The 2019-2020 season would prove to be a difficult one. During this season, COVID interrupted play and Chelsey experienced her third knee injury.
“COVID has changed a lot about practices and games. I could have two games one week and not another for three weeks. As many know, regular routines are needed for the body to function. The recovery was off so it gets tough,” said Chelsey.
Players have to get tested three times a week which cuts into practice time. Chelsey said, “I’ve been on lockdown for four months. There’s no outside activity besides the gym. So, it’s about mental space as well.”
Regarding Chelsey’s injuries, she said, “I’ve had injuries in every level of play. Injuries have occurred in both my ACL and MCL.” The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) keeps the shinbone from sliding forward and the MCL (medial collateral ligament) keeps the femur from sliding side to side. Her last injury while playing professionally was a lateral meniscus tear to the knee joint. “I still battle the lateral tear because I just came back from it,” she said.
With some hesitancy, Chelsey said COVID has provided a positive change in the way she approaches living a healthier lifestyle. In a recent interview with Sportsbeat, Chelsey discussed cousin Mookie Betts and the influential role he’s played as of late in her personal and professional life. Betts is a World Series two-time champion and right fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Since COVID, Betts has been more available. Chelsey reached out to him for advice and he made some solid recommendations. “I’m taking better care of my body, eating good, and staying ready for the moment.” She’s investing time and effort to pursue a couple of new interests. Activities such as practicing yoga for mind, body and spirit and working puzzles to keep from going stir crazy.
As far as her love for basketball, Chelsey said, “I love that I can be myself and do what I love to do everyday. With basketball, I’m always competing at a high level and being able to reach some of my weekly and monthly goals makes me love what I do even more.”
When it comes to league play, Chelsey said she’s keeping her options open. “I like being in a different country, learning more about myself, and meeting new people.” She lives in Nottingham England and visits London and Manchester often. Unfortunately, the pandemic limits her ability to sight-see.
Chelsey is in her third season with the Nottingham Wildcats and the hope is for more points on the board and more championships in her back pocket. This hometown hero and incredibly focused young woman will achieve all her dreams, no doubt about it.