Kendal Shell earns a scholarship, finally

Jace Frederick

Kendal Shell wasn't sure if it was ever going to happen. 

He came to the University of Minnesota as a preferred walk-on to the basketball team. Shell's father. William Shell, said head then-coach Tubby Smith saw Shell play at a high school tournament and told him if he came to the Gophers, he'd have a chance to earn a scholarship after his sophomore year.

But a day after the end of Shell's second season, Smith was fired. More than a week later, Richard Pitino was named the Gophers new head coach.

The deal was off, and Shell was left wondering if the day would come when he would ever receive that elusive scholarship.

"I kind of had my doubts," Shell said. "I didn't think it would. … But I just knew if I kept working hard, anything could happen."

Those doubts were put to rest on Monday when, at the end of practice, Pitino lined up all of the players to make the annoucement that Shell would be on scholarship this semester.

"At first I wasn't sure if I heard what he said right," Shell said. "I just kind of had to take it in for a second."

A second was all he had. Soon all of his fellow Gophers ran to congratulate their teammate, their friend.

"It was a great moment," senior guard Austin Hollins said. "Everyone was excited for Kendal. … He's like a brother to us."

Pitino said when he arrived on campus, Shell had a long way to go. For one thing, Shell was out of shape.

But he dropped the weight like a bad habit. Pitino said Shell lost 25 to 30 pounds in the offseason. Pitino said the junior guard has improved more than a lot guys on the team.

"[It's] a testament to him as a kid," Pitino said. "[He] has worked extremely hard on his body as well as his game."

Shell said the first person he told was his mother, Gloria. He said the two talked every day about continuing to work hard.

"She just kind of paused, she said 'are you serious?'" Shell said. "Then she made me tell her again, and then she made me repeat it again. And then she just started screaming and a couple of tears went down."

William Shell said he and Gloria were "so excited" about the news.

"He has worked so hard," William Shell said in a text message. "My wife and I are so proud! What a blessing."

 Shell will graduate in the spring with a degree in business marketing education with minors in leadership and sport management. He's doing so in just three years.

He said in October he plans to enter grad school at the University next year as he uses up his final year of basketball eligibility. Shell is interested in the business side of sports.

He's enjoying his time with the Gophers as he gets an up-close-and-personal look at how collegiate athletics are run by watching Pitino and athletic director Norwood Teague on a daily basis.

"It's fun seeing how it all works out — all comes together," he said. "I think it's a great experience just preparing me for the future and life after basketball. I really want to savor that moment. I just want to stay here and just keep learning as much as I can so that when once I do what I want to do, I can take what I've learned from all these people, coach P, Norwood, coach Smith, everybody that's helped me along the way."

"I just want to take what I've learned and do something good for the future."

Pitino said Shell is a both a great student and a great kid.

"[He] will be successful one day in life," he said. "I'm proud of him."