Shantrell Pierson owns a spot among the elite in high school girls’ basketball – yet it’s not how she wants people to remember her.
Skill and coordination played a hand in the success of the 2010 Brusly High School graduate and 2013 alumna of University of Louisiana-Monroe. But it took something much deeper that helped her reach her goals.
It was all about faith and determination, two elements that brought her success far beyond the hardwood.
“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle,” Pierson said.
Pierson took care of business on the court. Her success brought her honors as Most Valuable Player for District 7-3A and the All-Metro squads, as well as spots on the Class 3A All-State roster.
She also netted a school-record 44 points her junior year in action against Tara.
“I started playing at five-years-old, and from that point on I was always that girl who wanted to play sports,” Pierson said. “I loved the competition.”
Her success both in the classroom and the gym made her a cinch for a scholarship, which she received from University of Louisiana-Monroe.
That’s when the road got tough for Pierson.
The demands of college athletics and the pursuit of a degree – her primary goal – became a huge challenge for Pierson.
She wanted a career in Business, a field which added to her workload.
“Not once did I consider coaching, she said. “I love the game of basketball and even loved the idea of maybe playing overseas, but I wanted to go into a field which would allow me to become an entrepreneur.”
The next challenge proved far greater than anything she saw in her life.
Pierson gave birth to her son, Jonathan Ray Pierson, in January 2013. It changed her life and led her to a crossroad.
She faced the tough decision of staying in basketball or concentrating on her studies and being active in Jonathan’s life.
It was no competition.
“That was it for my basketball career,” Pierson said. “I had to finish college, but there was no way I’d continue in basketball and miss out on his first steps, maybe not be around for his first Christmas and not see all those things I could never relive.”
Her mother, grandmother and aunt helped her with Jonathan, but she said she could not drop out of college with one year left.
“It’s the belief in God that got me through that,” Pierson said. “I can dribble the basketball down the court any time I want, but just being a mom motivated me – and I had someone who looked up to me.”
Another element fueled her motivation to finish her final year.
“Knowing people doubted I’d finish school put some fire in me,” Pierson said. “My biggest thing is that there are a lot of young guys and young girls who think nobody believes in them.
“When things are hard, you can’t give up,” she said. “You have to keep your faith in God – there is someone out there who believes in you.”
A lot of kids give up because they have a lack of respect in their elders. At the same time, Pierson believes the elders should reach out a little more.
“Some people think no matter what happens, a kids should respect you,” she said. “Kids should show respect, but at the same time if elders respect the young kids, things would change. In both ways, respect should be given and not earned.”
Pierson graduated last year from ULM. She now concentrates on being a mother, succeeding in business and making a difference for young people.
Although she enjoyed great success in sports, she said she will not push Jonathan to go that direction.
“I don’t want people to think he has to be an athlete because his mother was an athlete,” Pierson said. “I only want him to do what makes him happy.
“I enjoy everything about parenthood – every time I see my son, I can’t help but smile,” she said. “He’s a gift from God.”
Pierson now works in auto sales in a Baton Rouge dealership, a job she says she loves.
“I meet new people every day, and there are two very important things in their lives – their car and their house,” she said. “I’m glad to be in a business that enables me to help people.”
Pierson wants to eventually move from auto sales into her dream profession – owner of a 24-hour daycare center.
She believes it would be a perfect fit for West Baton Rouge, where many toil in shift work. It would also help for those moms and dads who want a night away from the kids.
“I love kids and I want to be that person with the biggest impact on a kid’s life,” Pierson said. “I want to make a difference in a person’s life.”
She already does all she can to convey that to high school students, particularly in Tombstone, where she grew up.
“People need to know that it doesn’t matter where you come from – it’s where you’re going that matters,” Pierson said. “A lot of kids, especially in Tombstone, never imagine the possibility of going to college.
“But with hard work, dedication and a belief in God, it can all fall into place – and I hope I’ve proven that to them,” she said.