By Robert Wilson
Photos by Bob Smith
Sponsored by: Junction Deli and Belhaven University

       Belhaven University women’s basketball coach Steve Calder felt Shantashia John was a great fit for his run-and-gun style of play coming out of Choctaw Central High.

       But not even Calder could imagine what the 5-foot-9 guard did in her collegiate debut at Belhaven.

       John scored 38 points – including 17 in the fourth quarter – and led Belhaven to an 88-74 victory over crosstown rival Millsaps College Nov. 8 at Belhaven’s Rugg Arena in Jackson.

       John’s incredible performance was the fifth most points scored in school history – five short of the school record (Jayne Osborne scored 43 against Centenary during the 1981-82 season) and the most points any player had scored before the Christmas break in school history.

Shantashia John photo by Bob Smith

       She made 10 of 19 shots from the field, 6 of 13 from 3-point range, and 12 of 13 from the free throw line with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals and played all but one minute of the game. Her six 3-pointers were two short of the school record, set by Samara Dingiswayo against Louisiana College during the 2016-2017 season.

Said Calder: “We knew we had something special.”

       John’s debut was just an indication of things to come for her freshman season. She led all freshmen in the country in scoring, averaging 19.7 points per game, and was only two freshmen in the country in the Top 50 in scoring this season.

       John was named the Collegiate Conference of the South’s Player of the Year and will likely receive freshman All-American honors.

       She led the conference in scoring and was second in field goal percentage (51.0), 3-point percentage (38.8) and free throw percentage (81.7). She ranked second in the country among freshman in 3-point percentage.

       John’s scoring average was eighth best in school history and only one other player (Regena Jackson’s 24.0 average during the 2011-2012 season) averaged as much as John in the past 36 seasons.

Shantashia John photo by Bob Smith

       She also ranked No. 3 in 3-pointer percentage, No. 5 in free throw percentage and No. 6 in 3-pointers made in school history.

       John also averaged 3.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.4 steals. She had highs 9 rebounds against Birmingham Southern and 9 assists against LaGrange, Ga., and 5 steals against Covenant.

       She led Belhaven to a 16-9 overall record and 10-6 league mark, a great improvement from a 10-11 overall record and 5-10 mark two years ago. It was Belhaven’s first winning season since the 2016-2017 season and best record since the 2011-2012 season.

       She was named the league’s Rookie of the Week eight times and the Player of the Week three times during the regular season.

       “Shan’s work ethic on the court and the style of her game is what drew me to her,” said Calder about John who won a state championship while playing for Choctaw Central and coach Bill Smith. “She fits the pace of play that our program wants to play in every game. We play an up-tempo style game with lots of outside shooting and pressing. A run and gun mentality. Coming from her high school at Choctaw, she was a perfect fit for our program. Her passing is what has made her teammates more successful. She sees the floor extremely well and finds open players quickly. Even though she scores 19 points a game she is a pass first player when she’s driving to the basket. She is really exciting to watch and plays hard every possession.”

       John has an incredible freshman season. What does she do for an encore next season as a sophomore?

       “It’s going to be tough because everyone will be prepared for her,” said Calder, who finished his eighth season at Belhaven. “She will have to continue to work on her game. I expect her to come back next year hungry to repeat as Player of the Year and win a conference championship. We have most of our key players returning and our expectations are high.”