Jaz Shelley was a leader in her first year with Nebraska women’s basketball last season, both statistically and in the locker room.
This summer, she’s taken steps to bring that leadership off the court in preparation for a future career.
A week-and-a-half ago, Shelley attended the inaugural NBA Student-Athlete Summit in Las Vegas. She was one of just 15 student-athletes, all women’s basketball players, selected to attend the four-day conference which featured panel discussions, networking opportunities and more.
“It was awesome,” Shelley said. “It was a really good experience.”
She said some of the most memorable moments of the trip were touring the UFC headquarters, along with talking to NBA executives such as league Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum and San Antonio Spurs CEO R.C. Buford.
Huskers head coach Amy Williams nominated Shelley to be selected for the trip. The event aligned with Shelley’s major, advertising and public relations, and she gained some more perspective of what she may want to pursue after her playing days are over.
“I definitely went in not sure of what I wanted to do, still not sure,” Shelley said. “But it was cool to see the different industries… The public relations side, I’m still super interested in, I got to speak to a couple people from Wilson. So that and the marketing strategy side, as well as even if a business opportunity came up, like working in the front office or something like that would be something I’m interested in too.”
She credited Williams for how she encourages the team to value education and other things off the court. Shelley said she felt “a little uncomfortable” about going to the summit, but her coach’s assurances helped.
“A lot of those industries, you have to be a good leader and (Williams) is really trying to enforce that,” Shelley said. “She’s been super helpful with prioritizing, student over athlete, and she just pushes me to do these things.”
According to Williams, the summit had “strict” qualifications just for a nomination, including that the player needed to be a rising senior. That narrowed down the options, and she knew the program fit with Shelley’s career goals.
However, more than just checking the boxes, Williams felt confident in the nomination based on what she had already seen from Shelley off the court.
“Every time that she gets an opportunity to interact with the youth in our community, people that she can pour into, the businesses, wherever she goes, I know she’s just going to represent Nebraska women’s basketball with the highest class and to the highest level.”
Williams has had many athletes aim to stay in basketball following their playing careers. She named former players Emily Wood, Maddie Simon, Rachel Blackburn and Jasmine Cincore as some who have participated in a Women’s Basketball Coaching Association coaching program. All four of those players have worked in an athletic department since graduating.
The Husker coach is happy to get more of her players down that path.
“I’ve been blessed and fortunate to be around to see a lot of young women that are now branching out into the coaching world and into the athletics world,” Williams said. “I just feel like our sport can really benefit from young women who have really poured into it and just understand the emotions and the joy and the love that this sport can bring and the way that it connects people”
Shelley has considered coaching as well, and said she’s been able to learn a lot from her current coaches in that regard. She feels the sideline could be a natural fit, given how she’s been a leader while playing the game.
“I feel like I’ve always been kind of a leader in my teams, and I feel like I can see the game pretty well,” Shelley said. “I like to teach people and I like to teach my teammates in the moment. So like, working on that while I’m still playing is something that I can see myself doing.”
Of course, she still is growing in that regard. Shelley said when she first got to Nebraska, it was difficult because she “didn’t want to overstep” and wasn’t as familiar with the system. That’s something that’s improved as she’s built relationships with teammates.
Whichever path Shelley does end up choosing in the future, Williams will be there in support.
“At any point when one of our best and brightest is interested in continuing in a profession in the sports world, in general, in women’s basketball, basketball specifically, I am going to do everything I can to pull out all stops to try to connect them and help them make the connections that’ll be important to open doors for them in their career,” Williams said.