Standing tall at 5’11”, SUNY Cobleskill’s Shelby Preston has cast an impressive shadow over the Fighting Tigers women's basketball team over the past four seasons, overcoming personal hardship and team struggles to lead her squad in 2016-17 to its first winning season and ECAC Division III Championship Tournament since she joined the team.
From scoring 21 points in her first game as a collegiate athlete to posting her 58th career double/double in her final performance, Ms. Preston has largely let her play on the court speak for itself. However, Ms. Preston recently sat down with The Mountain Eagle to discuss her career as an athlete and what lies ahead for the basketball star off the court.
End of the Line
After playing basketball the majority of her life, becoming a star athlete at both Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School and SUNY Cobleskill, Ms. Preston commented that it is very depressing that her final season is in the books, because “I’ve been an athlete my whole life and for it to just be over...it’s depressing.”
“Then again, I’ve done what I had to do,” Ms. Preston added modestly.
In addition to setting the Fighting Tiger program records for most points scored with 1386 and most rebounds with 1220, Ms. Preston was named to the NEAC All-Conference Team all four seasons of her collegiate career and she received the Excellence in Student Leadership Award from SUNY Cobleskill twice.
When asked what she was most proud of from her time at SUNY Cobleskill, Ms. Preston cited her ability to manage the various aspects of being a student athlete: juggling classes and getting good grades, playing basketball, and becoming part of as many clubs as she was able to.
She added, “The most challenging thing would have to be...honestly just living up to the standard of what a student athlete really is.”
A Daughter and An Athlete
One of the most difficult hardships Ms. Preston faced was in her Sophomore season, as she battled opponents on the court while her father battled for his life in a courageous fight against cancer. Her father would yield to his sickness late in Shelby’s season and with only one home game remaining, no one expected her to play.
However, just one day after her father died and one day before his funeral, she took the court and won the hearts and minds of everyone in attendance, scoring 18 points and taking down 21 rebounds in a heartfelt performance that led to her receiving the 2014-15 NEAC Inspirational Award.
Commenting on the situation that, “It was absolutely awful and I didn’t think I could do it, but I just did it… And people admired me for that the rest of my career,” Ms. Preston shared that she nearly hung up the sneakers after her father passed.
When asked what compelled her to keep playing when she didn’t want to, Shelby replied that “My teammates and the people around me told me I can’t give up the one thing that I live for.”
Now that all her games have been played and her accomplishments immortalized, Ms. Preston is looking toward the next chapter of life as a college graduate. Set to receive her Bachelor's Degree in Communications this coming May, the Dean’s List honoree is contemplating her next move.
Although she is currently trying to decide between furthering her education by pursuing a Masters in Sports Management at either Cortland or Springfield, while also mulling a part-time marketing position she was offered by Syracuse Athletics, Ms. Preston is sure of one thing: she wants to remain a part of the sports world.
“I just want to be in the athletic realm of things, I don’t really care what I’m doing I just want to be around athletics at all costs,” she said. When asked if this included potentially coaching one day, Ms. Preston laughed while responding with a quick “no.”