HUNTINGTON – If Shayna Gore’s estimation on her basketball abilities is accurate, it’s pretty obvious her game has changed quite a bit in 14 years.
Gore, the leading freshman scorer in Conference USA women’s hoops, has helped Marshall to its first 5-0 start since 2003-04, and has scored in double figures in every game off the bench as a Herd rookie.
“I started playing when I was 4,” the 5-foot-8 Gore said. “Really, I think I was pretty bad when I started. “When I was really little, my dad knew I had a love for the game because I had one of those little rims, and I’d make him get on his knees and play – that’s probably why his knees are bad today – and he and I would play in the living room.
“My mom swears you couldn’t get us out of the living room.”
Well, Shane and Michelle Gore’s little girl – she’s the youngest player on Marshall’s roster – finished her Logan High school career last season with a school-record 1,991 points? Was there disappointment about not reaching 2,000?
“Yeah, I didn’t get to play my last two regular-season games because they were canceled by snow,” Gore said of a season in which she averaged 28.1 points. “They didn’t get rescheduled.”
She’s picked up with the Herd where she left off for the Wildcats, scoring 27 in her first collegiate game, a wild, 104-101 win at Morehead State. Since then, Gore has produced 13, 10, 17 and 15 points for Coach Matt Daniel’s team, which on Saturday afternoon against winless Alabama A&M has a chance to be the first Herd team to start 6-0 since the 21-1 Green Gals of 1971-72 opened the season with 20 straight victories.
Gore is not only in the top 10 in C-USA scoring (16.4 ppg). She’s also in the top 10 in field goal percentage (.569) despite being a perimeter player, and she’s at .379 behind the 3-point arc.
“I think I get more confident now every time a game comes,” said Gore, who didn’t turn 18 until Sept. 21. “If I have a good practice right before a game, it gets me going. And like I said after the Morehead game, if I take an early shot and see it go, it gives me the confidence and momentum to keep it going.”
Gore has been more than a scorer for the Herd. She’s averaging 3.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and has nine steals, playing 27.0 minutes per game. And she says her comfort zone is aided because she’s among so many familiar teammates.
Herd freshmen Gore, Maddie Morris, Logan Fraley and Hope Lester were AAU teammates on the West Virginia Thunder. They were part of a 2015 recruiting class that was ranked No. 52 nationally by BlueStar Report. Gore, Lester and Morris are among seven West Virginians on the MU roster.
Gore said she and her AAU teammates feel they have something to prove in NCAA Division I hoops because of the lack of respect and attention often given to Mountain State prospects.
“That attitude does bother me,” Gore said. “When I first started playing at Logan, a lot of people never thought of Logan as ‘girls basketball.’ But my teammates and I turned the program around.
“When I got here, a lot of people doubted me, whether I could do it, and lot of people in West Virginia have doubted me and us – didn’t think I’d get to play a lot, score the points I have right now. I know it’s only a few games, but that’s also something that motivates me more — when people doubt me.”
If Gore wants to consider her biggest hoops frustration to date, she doesn’t have to step outside the Herd’s Jill Justice Locker Room. Her MU teammate Morris starred at Spring Valley High, and the Timberwolves were responsible for blocking Logan’s path to the Class AAA State Tournament in sectional play the past two seasons.
As a sophomore, Gore – a three-time All-State first team selection – did lead Logan to the 2013 State Tournament title game, where the Wildcats fell hard to Parkersburg South.
“Yeah, Maddie,” Gore said, smiling. “She gives me a hard time because in the semifinal game of the state Tournament when we got there, we knocked her out of a chance to go to the championship. We played all the time. It seems like I played her 12 times a year. I committed to Marshall in the 10th grade, about a week after we went to the State Tournament. I was already committed before (Daniel) asked Maddie, Logan and Hope to come here. I knew as soon as he said he was going to ask them that we’d be really good.
“I kept telling my parents this past year, ‘I really think my freshman year we’re going to be pretty good.’ And right now, we’re showing it.”
Daniel’s team entered last weekend at No. 59 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), and Gore was the C-USA Freshman of the Week for the first week of the season. The Herd is averaging nearly 81 points per game, but Gore knows there’s more to the game than putting the ball through the hoop, particularly after she spent much of her high school career as the go-to player with ball in hand.
“Before I got here, Coach Daniel wanted me to work on two things,” Gore said. “On defense, he wanted me to be quicker, and on offense, to be able to move without the ball. I don’t think it was really that hard to play without the ball because I knew when I got here I had Leah (Scott) and ReRe (point guard Norrisha Victrum) here. I had watched Leah and ReRe a lot and I knew they could handle the ball and it’s more comfortable to me. I don’t have to bust my butt going down the court, running out of breath. Instead, I can come down and spot up for a three and Leah or ReRe will find me.
“The thing I’m working on hardest now – what to improve – is definitely my defense, and it looks like it has the last few games. I’ve been told by Coach (Tony) Kemper and Coach (Devrinn) Paul (MU assistants) that my defense looks a lot better. I stay after practice sometimes to work on being quicker – no more sliding; I’ve got to run to the ball. I’ve been working so I can get stops, and that will lead to more points for us.”
Gore, an athletic training major at MU, said she’s felt “at home” in her collegiate start so far, and it’s little wonder. After the opening win an hour away west on I-64, the Alabama A&M date will be Marshall’s fifth in a row at the Henderson Center. Then after a trip east on the interstate on face West Virginia in the Dec. 13 Capital Classic game, the Herd come back to “The Cam” for three straight home dates from Dec. 17-22.
“The best part of college basketball so far for me is the home games,” Gore said. “I love playing in front of the home crowds. The traveling, too … I love it all. It’s just a great experience. Most importantly, I like being with my teammates and especially my AAU teammates. We’re all close. And where I’m used to traveling all over the place with Logan, Maddie and Hope, this is giving me more opportunity to keep going for three more years after this.”