Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had her share of options when it came to making her collegiate choice. But her decision was more complex than most aspiring college students.
University of Maryland women's basketball junior guard Walker-Kimbrough was a sought-after athlete in multiple sports, a result of her accomplishments at Hopewell High School in Aliquippa, Pa. A first-team all-state selection for three years in both basketball and volleyball, Walker-Kimbrough also was a track standout. In addition to Maryland, she was recruited by such notable basketball programs as Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Duquesne. Walker-Kimbrough's volleyball skills made her a target of Penn State, which has won seven NCAA championships.
"Growing up, I was an only child, and my mom kept me busy," Walker-Kimbrough said. "I was also in tap dance, gymnastics, karate and piano. When I got to high school, I just played everything. But basketball was my best sport. I had a full court in my room, with one basket on the door and another one in the corner."
When it came time for Walker-Kimbrough to make her college decision, she left her volleyball and track days behind. The 2012-13 Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Pennsylvania committed to Maryland, and the decision has paid dividends for both Walker-Kimbrough and head coach Brenda Frese's program.
"The D.C. area is great," Walker-Kimbrough said. "I wanted a family away from home, and Coach B made me feel like this was home."
Frese, who already had a standout player from Pennsylvania in eventual three-time All-American Alyssa Thomas on the roster, was happy to add another top-notch player who hailed from the western part of the state.
"When we recruited her, we thought that Shatori had a really high ceiling," Frese said. "She was a three-sport athlete and had never just focused on basketball. We knew that once she did, the sky was the limit."
Walker-Kimbrough has excelled during her two-plus years at Maryland. The 5-foot-11 guard reached a career milestone Dec. 11, when she became the 30th player in Maryland's 44-year basketball history to reach the career 1,000-point mark during the Terps' 94-61 victory against Southern University. At her current pace, Walker-Kimbrough will become one of Maryland's top-20 career scorers by the end of her junior season.
Her shooting accuracy and tireless work ethic are two primary reasons Walker-Kimbrough has already exceeded the career 1,000-point mark. During her freshman year, Walker-Kimbrough made 48 percent of her field goal attempts and hit 40 percent from 3-point range. As a sophomore, she improved to 52 percent from the field but fell to 34 percent from beyond the arc. Nearing the halfway point of her junior season, Walker-Kimbrough had connected on 57 percent of her field-goal attempts and 59 percent of her 3-pointers.
"It's about repetition," Walker-Kimbrough said. "I try to get in before practice and shoot 100 jump shots and 100 3-pointers. My goal is to hit 70 out of 100."
Her shooting prowess is not the only improvement in Walker-Kimbrough's game. Frese has also noticed a change in Walker-Kimbrough's expectations of herself.
"Shatori had a perfectionist's mentality," Frese said. "In her freshman year, she had a standard where she wanted to be 100 percent from the 3-point line. We had to explain that 33 percent was a really good average [from beyond the arc]."
Walker-Kimbrough has also worked diligently on expanding her skill set since coming to Maryland.
"In high school, I would usually just get the rebound and go," Walker-Kimbrough said. "During my sophomore year here, I wanted to start creating for other people. That's the role that I'm trying to take this year, to not only create my own shots, but to get shots for my teammates. I've been working on my passing and trying to get Brionna [Jones] the ball down low and get Kristen [Confroy] open jump shots."
During her freshman season, Walker-Kimbrough was a valuable reserve during Maryland's run to its first Final Four in eight years. She averaged 9.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists as Maryland finished with a 28-7 record.
Walker-Kimbrough became a full-time starter during her sophomore year, when the Terps tied a school single-season record with 34 victories, went undefeated during their first Big Ten campaign and reached a second consecutive Final Four. Walker-Kimbrough, who was voted the Most Outstanding Player of the Spokane Regional, averaged 13.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game during Maryland's 34-3 campaign. She earned honorable mention All-American honors from the Associated Press and was named first-team All-Big Ten by the league's coaches and media.
Walker-Kimbrough's career accomplishments have put her in the running for college basketball's most prestigious awards. She is one of 50 women's players on the watch list for the Naismith Trophy and among 30 players nominated for the Wooden Award. The winners of both awards will be named at the end of the season, but Walker-Kimbrough isn't focused on individual acclaim.
"It's an honor, but I'm really trying to stay focused on the team and what we need to do to get better," Walker-Kimbrough said. "I would like to win a national championship here."
Frese understands the importance of Walker-Kimbrough's production and leadership in achieving that ultimate goal.
"Our team goes as she goes," Frese said. "Her game has taken off on so many levels, but for me, it's the growth of her leadership. Shatori was a very emotional player in her first two years, and a bad call or a missed shot would send her spiraling. Now, she understands that there are other things that she can do, like playing defense and getting a steal or a rebound. Her growth has made her game better and our team better."