Freshman guard finds favor with Hurricane teammates

Published January 20, 2006

INVERNESS - Freshman Trent Shelton knows how to respond to a good-natured insult from Justin Ward, his older teammate and occasional video game nemesis.

Sometimes, Shelton reminds Ward which player starts for the Hurricanes. Shelton's a starter. Ward, a senior, isn't.

But it wasn't always this way.

Shelton, 15, played for the junior varsity until late December, when a lucky break - junior Nick Delguidice could not accompany Citrus to its holiday tournament - earned him a promotion.

Coach Tom Densmore inserted Shelton into the lineup as point guard against Leesburg, and he's been there since.

The only problem: once Delguidice returned this month, Shelton pushed Ward to the bench.

Ward, 17, said he's doing okay with the demotion - except when Shelton reminds him of it.

"I'll push him in the shoulder," Ward said with a laugh. "I show him who's the boss."

Jokes aside, Ward, who claims his game has improved since becoming a reserve, said his teammates have welcomed Shelton. Some already knew their new point guard from summer leagues.

Though most of his teammates are at least two years older, Shelton regularly plays video games with them. NBA Live '06 is a favorite.

"He's a big Heat fan," Ward said. "I'm the Phoenix Suns and I can hit hit him with 3s all day."

On the real court, Shelton doesn't shoot much, instead focusing on helping his teammates score and controlling the tempo. That might change as the 6-foot 145-pound Shelton gets taller and stronger, Densmore said.

Shelton's father, Mike, is 6 feet 4, and Densmore said he hopes Shelton will grow at least 2 more inches. Even if he doesn't, Densmore said Shelton has become a valuable asset.

"He listens and then he responds," said Densmore, who first watched Shelton play in summer leagues when he was about 9. "He knows he still has a lot to learn. He didn't come up here saying I'm a ninth grader and I'm on varsity so I must be pretty good."

After succeeding against players his own age, Shelton quickly adapted to the rougher varsity game. Because of his size, he gets pushed around, but he responds physically.

"You've got to push back," he said. "If you don't, they might think you're soft."

Shelton already has some experience with physical basketball. He plays his father sometimes in their cul-de-sac court and still gets beaten occasionally.

And when his dad isn't around, Shelton will shoot after practice "until I get hungry."

But much of the time, Shelton likes hanging out with his teammates, even when they tease him.

It's all in good fun.

"We treat him like our little bro," Ward said.

Brian Sumers can be reached at bsumers@sptimes.com or 564-3628.