NORMAL — When Kenyatta Shelton last pulled on an Illinois State basketball uniform in 2009, Kristi Cirone was motoring toward a third straight Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award and Robin Pingeton was calling the shots from the Redbird bench.
“A lot has changed,” Shelton said. “But there is change all the time. You have to adapt.”
What hasn’t changed, according to Shelton, are the skills she brought to 89 previous games as a Redbird before sitting out the 2009-10 season while recovering from knee surgery.
“My knees feel amazing,” said Shelton, who makes her return Tuesday as ISU meets Illinois-Springfield in a 7:05 p.m. exhibition at Redbird Arena. “I can run just as fast and jump just as high.”
That’s what the Redbirds are counting on in new coach Stephanie Glance’s first season.
“She’s full go. If she can stay healthy, she’s looking at a great season ahead,” Glance said. “Yatti is a just a tremendous athlete and a quick leaper. She also has a great work ethic. As a coach, you really appreciate that.”
The 6-foot-1 Shelton had her best season as a Redbird in 2006-07 while averaging 9.5 points and 7.0 rebounds as a freshman.
The Chicago native had ACL surgery on her left knee in the offseason before her sophomore year yet still appeared in 28 games.
“You learn from the first time to give it your all,” she said. “You know it’s a process and you have to be mentally tough to fight every day. You know where you want to be is back on the court.”
Shelton tore the ACL in her right knee in June of 2009. Although she could have returned to action sometime during last season, the decision was made to take a redshirt season.
“We decided to sit the whole year and be stronger,” said Shelton. “I was about 80 percent the last time.”
Senior Emily Hanley will team with Shelton in the post this season.
“Yatti worked incredibly hard in the offseason to get back,” Hanley said. “We’re very excited to have her back and expect big things from her. Her athleticism is huge for us.”
Illinois-Springfield: The PrairieStars, a Division II team, had a 3-24 record last season. UIS returns its top scorer (14.1) and rebounder (8.0) in 6-1 senior Paulina Pogorzelski.
Two former Intercity players — Bloomington’s Amanda Hainlen and University High’s Alyssa Palmer — are freshmen on the UIS roster.