LUBBOCK– Shahada Wells was easily the most popular Texas Christian University player last weekend in the hostile environment of the United Supermarkets Arena, home of the Texas Tech men’s basketball team.
How can anybody know that?
“I had about 30 people come see the game, so it was pretty good,” said Wells, who starred for Tascosa High during his high school playing days. “My family got to see me, so I know they were excited and they were proud.”
Wells was able to help his family and friends out for tickets thanks to some kind teammates, who are allotted a certain number of tickets to give out on road games.
“Well, I was able to handle all the ticket requests because all the guys sent them to me, so I was all right,” Wells said,
All right is exactly the state of Wells’ basketball world these days.
The journey of the 6-0 guard has been a winding road to reach D-I hoops and playing in the most respected conference in U.S. right now, the Big 12.
Lightly recruited out of Tascosa but respected locally here as 2017 Amarillo Globe-News Super Team player of the year, Wells started his college career at Tyler Junior college where in his sophomore year he made a national impact being named NJCAA Division I First Team All-American.
Wells made the move to the University of Texas-Arlington and immediately put his name on the map averaging 16.8 points and earning second team all-Sun Belt Conference.
Last year it was off to Texas Christian University to play under Jamie Dixon for the Horned Frogs. Four games into the season Wells suffered a season-ending knee injury.
In November, Wells was granted a medical redshirt waiver and as a redshirt junior has impressed Coach Dixon playing on fa very good No. 24-ranked TCU squad.
“For me it’s been a good transition,” Wells said of his determination and path to play D-I basketball. “I needed it. I felt going to junior college just put a chip on my shoulder and where I had to go harder. Like, I was overlooked. I was a small guy, so I felt I had to go harder. Coming from Tyler to UTA I went hard, then from UTA to TCU I went hard.”
Wells still wears his high school No. 13 honoring his great grandmother and her street address. He has played in all 29 of TCU games, earning nine starts while logging 18.9 minutes per game. Wells is second on the team in assists (74) and steals (38) while averaging 6.4 points per game. Of course, he’d love to see his minutes increase, but he trusts Coach Dixon.
“I mean what can I say,” Wells said when asked about his playing time. “We have good players so I’m not going to get the minutes I want but Coach (Dixon) knows what he’s doing to help us win games. He’s giving me enough minutes to go and do what I need to do.”
Dixon said Wells contributes in many ways to the Horned Frogs’ success.
“Shahada has been tremendous for us,” Dixon said. “When Mike (Miles) went down I’m sure you saw his numbers go up averaging in double figures.
“You can research this and I’ve asked him and had a laugh with him over it but if he has the year I think he will next he can become the best basketball player in Amarillo history.”
Last weekend Wells and TCU survived against Texas Tech winning 83-82.
Wells played half of the 40-minute game coming away with four points scoring on a strong drive to the basket and then on nice backdoor cut for an easy lay in. He handled some of the TCU ball handling duties out top adding in two steals, two rebounds and an assist.
“I’m small so I’m not going to score every time,” Wells said. “I didn’t have a great night but I feel like I contributed to the team getting good passes, assists and rebounds. Facilitating is a big part of my game.
“Like coach told us, just stay together and just believe in each other. We fell apart for a few but we got it together. Just practicing together and believing in each other. Passing the ball and rebounding that was the big emphasis that Coach had in practice and we executed (Saturday).”
Wells already owns a memory for a lifetime this season even before his chance to play in the prestigious NCAA men’s basketball tournament known as March Madness.
On Jan. 21, TCU went to Lawrence and knocked off the then No. 2-ranked Kansas Jayhawks by an eye-opening 23 points (83-60).
Wells was brilliant in the win over Kansas scoring a team-high 17 points on 7-of-8 field goal attempts in 21 minutes of action. He also contributed five rebounds and a team-high four steals.
“The Kansas game is still a great memory,” Wells said. “I have many more memories still to make here. But that’s one of the greatest memories I have here of us going into Lawrence and beating them. Me being a part of that it’s going to be history.”
Wells said he treasures the chance Coach Dixon has handed him to play in the Big 12.
“To be honest the opportunity to play in the Big 12 is pretty big for me,” Wells said. “I’m the first to do it and paving the way for the younger generation showing them they can do it. I went from JUCO to UTA to the Big 12. Just showing them they can do it.”
Of course, Wells is busy at TCU keeping up the grades and hours committed to basketball. But he also does his best to keep up with those Tascosa Rebels.
“I keep up with the Rebs the best I can,” Wells said. “Like the little guys, they always hit me up and tell me they had good games. I try to watch them whenever I can if it’s livestream. Even the Amarillo High girls game against Monterey, I’m watching. I try to keep up. It’s pretty exciting to see what we have here (in the Texas Panhandle).”
Speaking of excitement, Wells will be in action tonight when TCU hosts No. 9-ranked Texas in a game which will help both teams’ future in the NCAA Tournament. A tournament, by the way, Wells has high hopes for his Horned Frogs.
“I feel like Final Four,” Wells said when asked of TCU’s chances in the Big Dance. “We have a great team and if we put it all together, man. Like this game (against Tech). We showed we have the fight, and we have the dog in us. If we stay together we can make something special happen.”