Burnham Earns All-Conference Honors as a Freshman
With her father having coached at Platt Tech, Shelby Burnham grew up attending high school basketball practices. Now a freshman on the Branford girls’ basketball team, Shelby had a chance to put those lessons to the test this season and passed with flying colors by earning All-SCC Second Team honors for the Hornets.
Shelby first picked up a basketball at age three and started doing drills when she was five. At the time, Shelby’s father Chris was the head coach of the boys’ basketball team at Platt Tech High School, providing her with an opportunity to practice with the upperclassmen on the squad. Shelby says those practices helped her get involved in the sport and that her father’s encouragement only motivated her more.
“I don’t think I took advantage of it enough,” though “it helped me become who I am today,” says Shelby. “I learned the three-man weave when I was five years old, doing it with the juniors and seniors at Platt Tech. I basically started walking in that gym. I’ve always had the basketball skill within me.”
Shelby joined the Sal Tinari Biddy Basketball League in East Haven at age six. As soon as she started playing, Shelby knew that basketball was going to be her main sport and something in which she would be involved for the long haul.
Shelby played Biddy through her 8th-grade season and also competed for the East Haven travel team from 3rd to 8th grade. In 5th and 6th grade, she played for St. Rita’s in Hamden, where Shelby learned all the fundamentals and saw a big-time leap in her skillset.
Shelby played for Guilford’s travel team in 7th grade and competed at Adams Middle School as an 8th-grader. As she was entering her freshman year, Shelby and her family moved back to her mother Tiffany’s hometown of Branford, marking the first time that she’d ever played for a team in town.
Shelby had a secret weapon heading into high school as her dad was now the head coach of the Branford boys’ basketball team. Shelby’s father gave her pointers and told her several things to look out for once she started playing at the high school level.
“I expected it. Having my dad being a basketball coach at the high school, he was always telling me that high school was way different,” Shelby says. “They’re way bigger. You have to learn how to be strong. You have to be more mentally strong. I’m not sure if I’m at that level yet, but I’m definitely growing on this team.”
In addition to a stronger level of competition, Shelby’s transition to the high school level came with a position change. After mostly playing shooting guard throughout her career, Shelby moved to point guard as a freshman. When she’s dribbling up the court, Shelby is always reminding herself of the play that the Hornets are running and looks to put them in the best position to succeed.
“I’m constantly reminding myself to be ball strong. Drive if there’s no one open, pass, find the open lane. I’m constantly telling myself the plays we have and running through them in my head,” says Shelby. “Driving to the basket is one of my favorite things to do. Coach Medeiros inspired me to drive more.”
Shelby promptly became a varsity starter after joining the Hornets this year. At first, she felt a bit uncomfortable playing for a new team in a new town. However, Shelby had an early season meeting with Head Coach Aly Medeiros, who is also in her first year with the program and, together, they set goals. One of those goals was becoming more confident.
As the year went on, Shelby saw that goal come to fruition. She felt more involved and saw herself improving in terms of her the mental game. With a change in mindset and her solid skills, Shelby named to the All-SCC Second Team in her freshman season.
“It meant a lot to me. I felt very confident after I got that award. It was like a dream come true,” Shelby says. “I didn’t really expect myself to get it.”
Coach Medeiros saw Shelby’s potential right off the jump this year. Medeiros says the freshman is a hard worker who is always striving to improve both herself and her teammates.
“Shelby is a great person that works hard to make a positive difference on the team,” says Medeiros. “I am very happy with her success.”
When the basketball season is finished, Shelby will compete for the Branford softball team this spring. Shelby will be suiting up as a pitcher for the Hornets.
With three more years to go at Branford, Shelby plans on having a big impact during her time with the basketball program. Shelby wants to continue growing alongside her teammates and help the Hornets make some postseason noise.
“I’m proud of it. I really think we are good,” Shelby says. “Even if we’re lower right now, we’re going to keep growing as a team. I have a feeling that one day we’ll make it all the way to the end of states, and we will win.”