Shelton State coach is a women’s basketball trailblazer

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By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Jeremy Bryant

Shelton State Community College women’s basketball head coach Madonna Thompson has had an illustrious career for one of the top junior colleges in Alabama, but her hard work and dedication go beyond an ordinary coaching regime. She wants her players to not only learn the game, but enjoy every aspect of it.

She has been the head coach at Shelton State Community College for 24 years, accruing countless accolades that would make most coaches feel full of themselves. She added another Coach of the Year Award to her mantle after this year’s Alabama Community College Conference tournament. Even after all she’s done, she is still hungry to dig deeper to find more success and chase that everlasting goal that keeps her running back each year to enjoy a new journey.

Stepping in the same shoes

When Thompson speaks to her players, she talks to them with the advice and attitude of someone that was also once a part of a successful basketball team. Her stern tone exudes the same leadership she was tasked with back in 1994 when she was starting point guard for one of the most historic sports teams at the University of Alabama.

For the ’93-’94 season, the Crimson Tide women’s basketball team enjoyed a 26-7 record in the regular season, while also capturing the Midwest Regional Championship. Then their magical NCAA Tournament run took off from there. They secured the love and support of local fans as they shocked the world, beating the defending national champions Texas Longhorns, before advancing and beating Penn State in the next round. That team still stands today as the only men’s and women’s basketball team in the school’s history to advance all the way to the final four of the tournament.

Thompson was only a junior during that run, and she saw her team lose to Louisiana Tech in a gut-wrenching loss of 69-66. She said she believes that run lifted the bar of success for basketball at Alabama, and it wasn’t as easy as they made it seem.

“After we went you would think the expectations were raised for the men’s side, but we are still the only team in the school’s history to make it to the final four, so it just tells you how hard it is to get there, and just takes the stars aligning in the right direction at the right time and place,” said Thompson

It’s all about the team

If a person were to walk into Shelton State’s gym, they might look up and find themselves in awe at all the banners highlighting the school’s basketball success. Almost all of those belong to Thompson and the Lady Bucs.

As far as team success goes, before this past season, Thompson boasted an overall record of 630-138 to go along with 16 conference championships, and 21 consecutive 20-win seasons.

To Thompson, it was that first conference championship that compels her to continue chasing that inaugural emotion after almost feeling like she chose the wrong job.

“When I got my own players that second year and won our first conference championship, it was like a drug to me. It was just that constant search for that feeling of running out on the floor to hoist that big trophy and getting that banner, and it just stuck with me from there,” said Thompson.

 Thompson said she structures her teams to be the biggest threat, not only in the conference but in the nation. The Lady Bucs are a perennial Top-10 participant each year, including this past season where they finished the regular season ranked second among national junior college rankings. In the postseason her resume continues to shine bright with four total Final Four appearances, with three of them consecutive showing. The only accolade that still eludes her is a coveted National Championship.

Perfection is key

The fans at games mostly see her sitting on her chair seeming mellow and maybe think that she is not as focused. In reality, it is the complete opposite because there’s never a moment where her mind doesn’t roam with thoughts about how she can make her team or player better. What the fans do not get to see is how fierce and animated her practices get.

“She’s probably harder in practice intensity wise, her in-practice intensity is absolutely insane because she wants everything to be perfect,” said Shelton State assistant coach Collin Hardy.

She runs her teams that hard so that the moment never becomes too big for them. It’s that type of passion that drives her to push them to be better players not only at the JUCO level, but at every level of basketball they may reach.

Players’ coach

No matter how many stomps hit the ground, or how many papers and clipboards get slammed, her players understand that she has already carved their path of success. In her tenure she has sent 99 players to four-year colleges after leaving Shelton to continue their playing careers and education. Getting that many players to the next level is no easy task, but it is just a testament to how hard she works at making sure that each player is ready for that next step.

“The kids don’t have a choice, but to be successful because there’s no gray area with her, she’s been there and done that, so she knows what it takes to be successful and gives you all the tools and keys to get to that point,” said Hardy

What’s next

Less than a week removed from the Lady Bucs’ upset in the playoffs, Thompson is doing what she knows best. She sits at her desk to make calls and dissect the pool of incoming high school players who fit the Shelton State mold. One constant remains in her quest for the next team: Any player who envisions being successful in all avenues with the correct attitude is a great fit inside her realm of excellence.

Categories: College Sports, Shelton State, Sports