By Jeremy Holaday
Big 12 Correspondent
Shalin Spani took a different path to major women’s college basketball than the usual high school All-American takes. The now junior at K-State was homeschooled her entire life before college. The homeschool to Division I path is becoming more popular over the last few years but that doesn’t mean it became easier for Spani.
“It was definitely difficult. It is one of those things where someone will always be asking you questions about it (being homeschooled),” said Spani. “When you are out on the recruiting trail the big time college coaches will ask you about the competition you play, because they want you playing tough competition year round.”
Spani was homeschooled and played for Metro Academy in Lee’s Summit, Mo., in which the team was in-sanction to play public schools around the Kansas City area. Shalin led Metro Academy to the National Christian Homeschool Backetball Championship (NCHBC) her junior year and was a three-time NCHBC All-American. She left Metro Academy with school records in career points (2,467), career three-point shots (248), career field goal percentage (.513), career three-point field goal percentage (.390), and points in a season (936). There was no doubt the Spani could perform on the court but the question was still being asked even when she got to college, ‘but what about the competition?’
“They always doubt that homeschool basketball is competitive. It was definitely harder because people will always question you and have their doubts about how you got to where you are,” said Spani.
The doubt and questions towards homeschool athletes have slowly gone down considering the company that Spani is with. In the collegiate spectrum, 325 homeschoolers played in Division I or II in the last two athletic season. That includes someone like Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. Joining Spani in the Big 12 is Iowa State’s Whitney Williams who was homeschooled in Texas. Spani’s sister, Taber, who played along side her at Metro Academy starts as a freshman at the University of Tennesee.
Spani’s parents chose to homeschool their children so they could get the Christian education they saw fit. Her parents left it up to her as she got older but Spani did not want it any other way than continuing her homeschooling.
“It was interesting but I absolutely loved it and I would not have changed it. It taught me a lot of things as far as time management and discipline in regards to academics. Basketball wise, it was strange but I think over the last few years people are seeing homeschool basketball grow,” said Spani.
Homeschooling is a natural thing for the Spani family much like athletic ability. Shalin is the daughter of Gary Spani who played football at K-State and later became the first K-Stater to be inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame. Gary also played 10 seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs. Shalin’s grandfather, Frosty Westering, played football at Northwestern, coached at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as well. Spani also has two uncles who played college football and her before mentioned sister, Taber, who became just the 13th freshman in Tennessee women’s basketball history to start in her first game.
In her third year as a Wildcat Spani has adjusted being away homeschooling and has recovered from two season ending knee injuries to become a starter. So far this season Spani has started five games and had a career-high 16 points against Indiana State.
Spani’s path to Division I athletics may have been a different one than most but it is one that she loved and wouldn’t trade for anything.
By Jeremy Holaday