Jefferson's girls program has had countless great players, but the first to earn that title was Shellie Crandall
By KARL PEARSON
The ability to take on new challenges and handle them is a prized characteristic in the world of business and in sports.
If anyone has learned to deal with challenges, it is Shellie Crandall. In fact, it seems she relishes them.
For most people, having the responsibility of managing a $60 million enterprise that employees more than 1,000 people as she has done with the Brinks, Inc. in Los Angeles would seem like challenges enough for a lifetime. But the Jefferson High school graduate was so intrigued with the opportunities extended to her at YCM Net Advisors in California that she has struck out on a whole new career direction.
"I'm a registered financial advisor," Crandall said from her temporary home in Walnut Creek, Calif., about a half hour from San Francisco. "It's a totally different industry, but it was a great opportunity I just couldn't pass up.
"YCM has about $700 million in assets. It's a lot of responsibility trying to manage people's finances. We're trying to help them make the right decisions.
"We have about 30 people," Crandall noted. "I probably deal with about 20 on a daily basis."
Making the transition from Brinks to her new job was not an easy decision.
"I was in a real good situation at Brinks," Crandall admitted. "But I've always felt you should look for opportunities to make yourself better. You have to continue to push forward."
Thus, the lessons she learned so long ago on the basketball courts of Ashtabula County continue to serve Crandall well, even though she has not been back for several years. But she is looking forward to April 10 when she comes back for her induction in the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation's third Hall of Fame class.
"I was a little surprised when I was told," she said. "I didn't even realize they had a Hall of Fame, but I'm very honored."
Crandall and her loved ones are definitely taking the event at the Conneaut Human Resources Center seriously, as they will easily be coming the furthest distance for the occasion. She and her partner, Danielle Edwards, have quite a trip ahead from their home in Los Angeles, while her mother, Happy Crandall, and her stepfather, and her brother Ken, a fine player in his own right at Jefferson, will be coming in from their homes in Hollywood, Fla.
"My family is very, very excited," she noted. "My mother is really pleased and my brother is ecstatic. Danielle is really pleased, too."
As proud as she is of this latest distinction, which goes along with her status as one of Ashtabula County's girls Grand Players by scoring 1,067 points, Crandall embraces the lessons she learned from 1979-82 as a student-athlete at Jefferson. She still ranks 16th of 21 county women to achieve that distinction.
"I think just being an athlete you have to be some kind of leader," she said. "Those ideas were promoted and encouraged from my teachers and coaches like Al Graper (former Jefferson seventh-grade girls coach) and (her old high school coach) Larry Meloro (now the principal of Rock Creek Elementary School). I've been fortunate to have those things taught to me. They tried to channel our energies into positive things.
"They taught us to be respectful and that we had to set an example," Crandall said. "They taught us the drive to want to win. They taught us discipline. I still live by those principles."
Her brother, a 1980 Jefferson graduate and the starting point guard on coach Rick Nemet's squad that won a Class AA sectional championship at Warren Western Reserve High School, was a big part of her development and success at Jefferson.
"My brother got me involved in basketball," Crandall said. "When we moved to Jefferson (when Crandall was a fifth grader), our house (on Lenox-New Lyme Road) had a real nice driveway with a real nice hoop. I probably started playing against him when I was in sixth or seventh grade. I learned a lot from working with my brother.
"I was asked to play on the seventh-grade boys team, but my mother wouldn't let me. I guess my first experience in organized basketball was in ninth grade for Mr. Meloro. He was my coach all through high school."
Crandall supplied a piece to the puzzle for the Falcons Meloro could only have dreamt about.
"I had my eye on Shellie when she was in seventh and eighth grade," he said. "She was kind of ahead of her time. She played like a boy. At that time, most girls who came to you didn't have a lot of experience in the sport. When she came to us, she had so much natural ability."
Later, she ran the show for the Falcons.
"Shellie was kind of like Larry Bird," Meloro said. "We wanted everything to flow through her.
"I wish she could have played with some of the teams (present Jefferson coach) Rod (Holmes) has had. She had such a feel for the game. The girls in those early years didn't always know that the ball was coming to them from Shellie at any time. Many times, they weren't ready for her passes."
She is still among the upper echelon in many statistical categories for Jefferson girls basketball. When she graduated in 1982, she led Jefferson in career points per game, games played, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, free-throw percentage, assists and assists per game and steals and steals per game. She also held 10 single-season records.
As Jefferson's first four-year varsity letterwinner, she still ranks third behind Kelly Kapferer, who recently finished her collegiate career at Bowling Green, and ACBF Hall of Famer Anita Jurcenko, in career points and ranks fourth in career-scoring average at 15.9 points per game. She's tied for second in field goals made with Jurcenko behind Kapfer, is third in field goals attempted and made and free throws attempted and made behind Kapferer and Jurcenko, second in steals behind Jurcenko and third in steals per game behind Jurcenko and current Falcon Kelcie Hellmer.
She's still fifth in assists behind Kiki McNair, Jurcenko, Sophie Golembiowski and Shelly Burns and seventh in assists per game behind Golembiowski. All of that despite the fact she ranks only 13th in games played. Crandall shot 41.1 percent from the field and 66 percent from the foul line, which still ranks 18th at Jefferson.
Crandall also capped her high school career in style. Playing in one of the first Star Beacon Senior Classics, she scored 35 points, which still stands as the girls scoring record for the game. The performance even topped her career high of 30 points in regular-season or tournament play.
"That's something I'm pretty proud of, too," she said.
There are other points of pride.
"I was always pleased that I lettered my freshman year," Crandall said. "Getting to go to Lakeland on scholarship was special, too."
There is a bit of a sense she came along too soon in women's athletics.
"Sometimes, I wish I could be back in high school," Crandall said. "I would like to have seen if I could have made it in the pros.
"I was at a time in my life where women were just glad to be able to compete. I was really upset I didn't have chances to play when I was younger. I knew I had God-given talent, but there weren't opportunities for girls to show it. Girls today are fortunate."
Lakeland didn't work out all that well.
"I hurt my knee in the fourth or fifth game of my freshman year," Crandall said. "I tore the (anterior cruciate ligament). It was major. I had two big incisions on each side of my knee. I was in a full cast for two months."
It was basically the end of her organized athletic career. But she found a great alternative.
"After my year of rehab, I went into the Army," Crandall said. "I ended up in the military police. I spent two years in Virginia and four years in Heidelberg, Germany. That was a wonderful experience.
"I was part of a protection detail for a four-star general. I was his driver," she said. "I got to travel a lot in Europe to places like England, Austria and Turkey."
The last year of her military stint brought her back to Virginia. Crandall soon decided she wanted to explore new horizons.
"I just decided I wanted to go to Texas," she said. "I ended up in Dallas. It's really hot there, but the people are very friendly."
She became involved with the Brinks company in Texas.
"I spent four years with them in Texas," Crandall said. "I started out as a dispatcher and worked my way up from there. I even spent some time on the trucks."
She still uses all the principles she learned in Jefferson into practice.
"The lessons I learned all have to do with leadership," Crandall said. "It's about winning and team. It doesn't matter if you scored 33 points if you don't win.
"I've never stopped applying the lessons I learned. If I didn't have the competitive desire I have, who knows where I'd be today."
She also learned to take life one day at a time.
"Al Graper used to say to enjoy life for today," Crandall said. "Everybody seems in such a rush to get to the next level. I've learned to stay in the moment and enjoy it."