persistence, key to basketball success
By Lynn Bolt Rosendale
Cutting down the nets at the Holland Civic Center after winning the MIAA tournament last year is a memory that Ricky Shilts will not soon forget. “Remembering that whole week last year brings back some great feelings,” he said.
He now has another net-cutting celebration to add to his memory bank — the one at Albion’s Kresge Gymnasium that occurred after the Knights repeated as champions of the MIAA tournament this year.
“We wanted to take the momentum we ended with last year and build on it for this year,” said the senior point guard. “Throughout the season we concentrated on consistency and resiliency. We didn’t want any blow-out losses.”
In fact, the Knights were handed only one double-digit defeat this year — a 12-point loss to Division II Ferris State University early in the season. Calvin’s other five losses were all by four points or less, with two of those games going to overtime.
“One thing about this team is that we never gave a game away even when we were down by a lot,” said Shilts. “Coach [Kevin VandeStreek] would tell us, ‘Don’t fold the tents,’ and we never did.”
Shilts was instrumental in pushing the Knights to persist. “Basketball needs to be played with passion and with heart,” he said. “That can make up for a lot of other things a team might not have.”
Shilts himself is passionate about the game. He’s had a basketball in hand for as long as he can remember. “My mom nailed a hoop to a tree outside of our house before I was two years old,” he said.
As a youngster, he also served as the water boy for Kalamazoo Valley Community College, where his dad, Dick, has served as coach for more than 30 years. Shilts first played for his father at Kalamazoo Valley for two years before transferring to Calvin as a junior.
“A lot of people had a lot of good things to say about Calvin,” said Shilts. “I wanted to come to Calvin to get a Christian education and play basketball under a good coach in a solid program.”
The Knights were glad to see him come. “Ricky is an emotional leader,” said VandeStreek. “He loves to play the game and does a great job of inspiring his teammates to play their best.”
His senior year was especially memorable as the Knights made a long run in the NCAA III national tournament, with an eventual trip to Salem, Va., for the Final Four. The Knights’ dream season ended in the semifinals with a loss to Rochester University. Calvin went on to win the consolation game for third place in the nation.
“This team is different than any other team I’ve been on,” said Shilts. “I’ve never been a part of a team where all of the guys got along so well. We really enjoyed working together. One of our best characteristics was that we understood we had to do it as a team; as individuals, all of us, at times, were average, but as a team we did really well.”
Shilts was named to the All-MIAA second team. He was second in the league in free throw shooting percentage at 85.7 percent. He finished ninth in assists per game at 3.5 and ninth in three-point shooting percentage at .407.
Also a member of the 2004 golf team, Shilts has one year of eligibility left in that sport and may continue at Calvin in the fall. He is pursuing an interdisciplinary degree in recreation and communication.
“To get an excellent education, play on this basketball team, meet great people — including my girlfriend, Lisa Jurgens, who’s been a great influence on me — and get all of this with a Christian perspective, which is new for me, is something that I really appreciate a lot,” he said. “This whole experience has been a blessing in my life."
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