'They believe in where we're going.' Xavier women's basketball rebuilding with relationships

Adam Baum
Cincinnati Enquirer
Xavier Musketeers head coach Melanie Moore instructs the team during the second half of a NCAA women's college basketball game against the Cincinnati Bearcats, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, at Cintas Center in Cincinnati. Cincinnati Bearcats won 85-78.

Many coaches have argued that recruiting is the lifeblood of college basketball programs, but if you replaced recruiting with relationships it might be a more accurate assessment.

Relationships are the foundation upon which every team is built, and those relationships, when forged correctly, have a positive effect on recruiting.

Sometimes those relationships take a circuitous route until they form fully. 

When Shelby Calhoun was a high-level recruit coming out of high school at Christian Academy Louisville, the 5-foot-11 guard gathered a lot of interest.

Xavier University's women's basketball team sent Calhoun her first Division I scholarship offer when she was in the seventh grade. 

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Many other schools followed. 

One of those schools was Michigan, where Melanie Moore, who's about to begin her third season as Xavier's head coach, was an assistant at the time. Calhoun was in the eighth grade when Michigan connected, and although she chose to commit to Virginia Tech, Calhoun and Moore still kept in touch. 

"I've known Coach Moore for five years now and we've always had that relationship even when I went to Virginia Tech, we kept that relationship which is rare," said Calhoun. "You don't usually see people keep that – the recruiting process you either break up or you keep in touch. I'm so glad me and Coach Moore kept in touch."

When Calhoun chose to transfer from Virginia Tech in January, a few months into her freshman season, she called Moore. 

"She (Calhoun) gave me a call once she was in the portal and the rest is history," said Moore.

Calhoun said she was looking for somewhere closer to home and her family and already having a relationship in place with Moore made transferring to Xavier an easy decision. 

Calhoun's not the only new addition for the Musketeers. Moore and her staff have reloaded the roster following a 5-10 record last season that was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic on three separate occasions and forced Xavier into lengthy pauses of 16 days, 20 days and 25 days between games.

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"I tried not to get so caught up in the stoppages and the pauses so much because it was a lot and it was a lot on our players and our staff," said Moore. "Just when you felt like you got in a rhythm you'd get shut down again. But we all grew and we all went through the adversity this season. Moving forward we have to learn from that."

Next season the Musketeers return Nia Clark, Kae Satterfield, Ayanna Townsend, Courtney Prenger, Shaulana Wagner, Megan Harkey, Mackayla Scarlett and Janayshia Brown.

In addition to Calhoun, Xavier added transfer Shaila Beeler from Indiana University and Vincennes junior college, Taylor Smith, a transfer from Ole Miss, and Mikayla Hayes, a grad transfer from Clemson. Xavier will also welcome three incoming freshmen in Kaysia Woods, Aanaya Harris and Kaybriana Hallman.

The added reinforcements are important for a program that's hard at work trying to rebuild.

"I feel like our culture is intact now," said Moore. "We really focused on that and talked about that, just our core values every day – family, integrity and competitive greatness. Now it's just getting kids to buy into winning and teaching them how to win. The nice thing about that is you look at our roster next year, we just added more kids that have won.

"They believe in our vision and they know why we're here. I'm excited about the future. We're getting the right pieces in place. They know this is a gold mine waiting to be found again and they believe in where we're going."