Playing Division I basketball is challenging. Excelling in the college classroom can be even harder. But for Waconia native Shelby Moats, doing both is not only possible, but able to be conquered.
In a few short weeks, Moats will graduate with his Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a minor in corporate strategy, after just three years of post-secondary study at Vanderbilt University while holding a 3.6 grade point average and playing Division I men’s basketball for the VU Commodores.
Graduating college in three years is no easy feat, but for Moats, not finishing college was never really an option in his mind after graduating as the Waconia High School Valedictorian in 2011.
Sometimes forsaking his social life for his grades, Moats said from an early age, his parents, Scott and Sheryl, instilled a strong sense of academic pride in their children. He said that while college classes aren’t easy, homework has become something he enjoys, instead of a chore.
“I do have to balance, sometimes giving up a little bit of my social life in order to get good grades, to study, or to get that paper done,” he said.
He attributes his successes in the classroom to his parents, who he said pushed him to be a student first, then an athlete.
“School’s always been big for me and my family,” he said. “My dad told me if you don’t make it in basketball, you’d better make it in academics.”
Mom Sheryl agreed, saying that as a husband and wife team, they made daily choices to be involved in their kids’ lives, spending time together, going to activities and events, and being there when they walked to talk.
“Scott and I wanted our children to use their God-given talents to the best of their ability and to strive to do their best, in the classroom as well as on the court,” she said.
Moats admitted that work in the classroom comes rather naturally to him, but said that the support staff at Vanderbilt has been great in helping.
“We have a great coaching staff that realizes that academics are very important,” he said.
Playing the game for as long as he can remember, Moats said he didn’t even start thinking about playing college basketball until he started getting looks from coaches and scouts while playing on his ninth grade traveling team.
Through his three years at Vanderbilt, Moats said that while he would have liked to play a bigger role, statistically, on the team, he said the best way to help the team is for each player to find where he is most impactful.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” Moats said of his college career. “I’ve learned a lot about myself.”
In his three years with the Commodores, Moats scored 148 points and pulled down 155 rebounds. He also dished out 37 assists, grabbed 18 steals, and had 7 blocked shots.
He was named to the Southeastern Conference’s Academic Honor Roll twice, proving both his academic and athletic skills, which is something his parents hoped for when he chose a school.
“When choosing a college we wanted Shelby to look at schools that would provide an excellent education as well as the opportunity to play basketball,” Sheryl said, “because in the end, he needed to be able to have a degree that would provide him the background to succeed in life.”
And it certainly will. Graduating in a few weeks with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Moats has been accepted into the Masters of Science in Finance program at Vanderbilt, a one-year program. With one year of eligibility left of his NCAA career, Moats plans to play basketball for a fourth season next winter.
This summer, he will have a finance internship in Nashville. In the future, he hopes to enter the career field in either investment banking or finance.
However, Moats isn’t the first child in his family to balance sports and classes at the collegiate level. Older sister, Scotti, played basketball for two years while studying at Bethel University and is now in graduate school at the University of Minnesota.
The Moats family would especially like to thank the Hayes family, including WHS head coach Pat, wife Jennifer, and sons PJ and Jackson for their continued support.
“I know they have played a role in Shelby’s life and we appreciate the opportunities and support Coach Hayes and his family have extended to Shelby,” Sheryl said.
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]