Former NCAA Basketball Player Nevil Shed Shares His Story of Triumph

In 1966, a historic NCAA championship pitted an all-basketball team from Texas Western College against an all-white team from the University of Kentucky. The Texas Western team won and forty years later, Disney is sharing their story in the motion picture Glory Road. One of this saga’s heroes was Nevil Shed. Today Shed is a celebrated motivational speaker, who was invited to speak at this Wednesday’s All-School Meeting as part of Black History month. Shed shared his inspirational story in an energetic, compassionate speech. “I’m a dreamer,” Shed began. “As a youngster I was a dreamer, and I’m still a dreamer now; because dreams do come true. It’s all faith, you know. You’ve got to believe Nevil Shed was born in New York, grew up in the “hood,” and graduated from Morris High School. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, Shed replied, “A professional basketball player,” and he stuck to that dream. As a child, Shed was exposed to many of life’s harsh realities. He grew up in a neighborhood with dangerous gangs and witnessed a close friend’s drug-induced death. But Shed had a knack of turning negative experiences into positive goals, and he did not let his childhood experiences deter him from achieving his basketball dream. Shed attributes much of his success to the support he drew from his church and family. His father was a Pullman Car porter, a group of African American men who faced heavy discrimination. “I’m doing this here so that you won’t have to do this tomorrow,” he told his son. Although his father tried to shield him from racism, attending a historically black college in the South opened Shed’s eyes to racial segregation. Shed was forced to enter movie theatres through the “Colored People’s Entrance”. He was not allowed to drink from the white peoples’ drinking fountain, or use their public bathroom. With his dreams always in mind, however, Shed was able to maintain his dignity and self-respect. As a child Shed had battled every disadvantage just to practice the sport he loved. He played basketball in a park instead of a gymnasium, often shoveling snow in the winter to clear off a place for practicing. Shed was a self -taught athlete whose only instruction was what he gleaned from the players that he watched through the gymnasium window at the YMCA. “I had to work to get my basketball,” Shed said. “I did it because I had a dream. I wanted to become a professional basketball player. When God sees you doing something positive for yourself, He rewards you.” Shed battled a close-minded society while playing for his high school basketball team. He made the starting line-up in his Sophmore, Junior, and Senior year. Yet even though he beat out most of his white competition in the all-star games, achieved success scouts continued to ignore the “skinny kid with a big afro.” When college in the south didn’t work out for Shed, he returned home and did exactly what his parents told him to: he got a job. But Shed’s golden opportunity soon presented itself. He was invited to play basketball for Texas Western College. Shed recalled this as what he had always prepared himself for, so when the invitation came, he took it. The NCAA basketball final in 1966 was a showdown between Shed’s all-black team, and the all-white and widely popular Kentucky Wildcats. Despite little support from anyone aside from their African American fan Shed’s team stunned the crowd by emerging victorious not only over Kentucky team but also the racial obstacles the match up presented. On that day the Texas Western team challenged stereotypes about the incompetence of black athletes. “Society wasn’t ready to see five coloured basketball players going up against five white ones… it was the best going up against the best for the national championship, but society didn’t see it that way. To them, it was the whites against the blacks,” Shed said. “We could have gone up there in anger, but that would have destroyed the ultimate dream of becoming a true champion. I did it with the highest amount of poise, character, and sportsmanship… when we walked out there, we knew we were going to win that game.” On the recently released Glory Road, Shed commented, “The movie is the essence of how athletes of different races came together as a unit, as a team. It’s a teaching tool for people of colours, motivating the older generation to remember the past while letting the younger generation see how good it is, and that we can still make things better,” Shed continues to spread his story to youths across the nation in schools, churches, and community centers in the hopes of motivating them to fulfill their dreams. “We showed society that, given the chance, you’re going to win. If you stay focused on the road, on the journey, you’re going to win. Every one of you has a dream. I know you do,” Shed said in his departing words to PA students. “And dreams do come true. One must just walk by faith.”