Under any circumstances, graduating in three years is an impressive feat.
Doing so while playing Big Ten basketball is incredible.
That’s exactly what Gophers junior walk-on guard Kendal Shell is set to accomplish in the spring, when he’ll graduate with a degree in business marketing education with minors in leadership and sport management.
And if that isn’t enough, he also spends time volunteering.
“He’s a good all-around guy,” junior guard Andre Hollins said.
Shell’s parents always wanted him to be well-rounded.
His parents and two older brothers were all active in volunteering, and he followed the same path. In high school, he volunteered with a summer camp, tutored classmates in French and math and went on mission trips with his youth group.
“It doesn’t just make you feel better,” Shell said. “The opportunities really help you build a network and build a lot of people you can count on.”
Shell has continued his volunteering efforts during his time with the Gophers, and it’s spread across the team. The team is doing more in the community this year than it has in the past, he said. The Gophers have already gone to a battered women’s shelter and participated in a food drive.
“Not too many people get the opportunities that we do,” Shell said. “And I think it’s very important that our team as a whole has really embraced that this year.”
Shell seems to have helped every community in which he’s lived. His father, William Shell, said when Kendal comes back to St. Louis, he takes time to speak with kids in the neighborhood and still helps out at camps.
William Shell said he tries to credit his son for the positive effect he has on others, but it’s often to no avail.
“He’s like, ‘Dad, it’s no big deal. ... I’m just doing what I’m supposed to be doing,’” William Shell said.
William Shell knew sports were important to his son, but school had to come first.
So he told Kendal he had to adhere to the family’s educational standards — which were much tougher than the school’s policies — if he was going to participate in athletics.
Kendal Shell did his dad one better. He said he’d stay on the honor roll throughout school.
Shell stayed true to his word and did so with a difficult course load. He took multiple college classes and graduated with a 4.02 GPA. He earned more than 40 college credits before stepping foot on the University of Minnesota campus.
Shell brought his strong academic work ethic to college. He said he maintains a course load that varies from 13 to 16 credits, even during the season.
“It’s a lot,” he said. “I think time management is huge as an athlete. It takes time, [but] coming into college, I just knew I’d be ready for this.”
He’s proven just how ready he was.
William Shell said he couldn’t believe it when he got a letter saying his son made the Dean’s List with a 3.90 GPA.
Shell plans to enter graduate school at the University next year to start work on a master’s degree in sport management.
Shell credited support from his coaches and the athletics department for his continued academic success.
“The athletic program’s been huge in the way I’ve been able to finish my career early here,” he said.
On the court
Shell’s father thought his son might play baseball in college. Shell won the Silver Slugger award for sporting his team’s best batting average in three of his four seasons at Webster Groves High School.
But when he was playing hoops in a high school tournament, he caught the eye of former Gophers head coach Tubby Smith.
William Shell said Smith told his son that if he came to the Gophers as a preferred walk-on, he would have the opportunity to earn a scholarship for his final two seasons.
But just one day after Shell’s sophomore season wrapped up, Smith was fired.
When Richard Pitino was hired to fill the position in April, the possibility of earning a scholarship was likely out.
“I thought that was going to get him down a little bit,” William Shell said.
Pitino said when he first arrived on campus, Shell was “light-years away from anything.”
“I had a lot of doubts about him when I first took the job,” Pitino said. “He was bad.”
But Shell worked hard over the summer, and it paid off.
Pitino said Shell lost 25 to 30 pounds in the offseason and is now in as good of shape as anyone on the team. He’s become a team leader, he said, and often demonstrates the most energy and enthusiasm on the bench.
“He comes to work every single day,” Pitino said. “He deserves to be here … [and] I’m proud of him.”
Regardless of whether Shell’s improvement ever leads to a scholarship or more playing time on the hardwood, he loves the experience he’s having now.
“It’s just so fun,” he said. “I just love the game.”