BOONEVILLE, Miss. - Shelby Wilbanks is taking advantage of an opportunity that has only been afforded to a select few alumni from the Northeast Mississippi Community College women's basketball program.
Wilbanks has signed a professional contract with Bender Baskets Grünberg, which competes in the second division of Germany's Damen-Basketball-Bundesliga (DBBL).
"I've worked for so long for something like this and it's finally happening," said Wilbanks. "I'm really, really grateful and excited. It's a dream. I've always wanted to travel and go see places. I can't wait to see what it's like over there."
Wilbanks becomes just the third Lady Tiger since the program was resurrected in 1973 to ink with a pro organization. Jackie Perry was the first to do so when she joined Boa Viagem-Angra-Acore of Portugal's Liga Feminina following a stellar career at Mississippi State University in the late 1980s.
The latest Northeast standout to attain professional status was Talisa Boyd. She originally signed with Spain's Club Baloncesto Leganés in 2015, but most recently participated in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Africa Women's Champions Cup with Cameroon's FAP Basketball last year.
"I'm really overwhelmed," Lady Tigers head coach Brenda Mayes said. "They are very fortunate to have a player like Shelby. I know they won't have one that has a better work ethic. It'll be a great adventure.
"I think she'll do awesome because I know she's going to work hard. She's going to contribute in any way that she can because she just wants to be successful. We look forward to seeing how well she does."
Wilbanks starred at Northeast from 2015-17 before playing her final two years at Charleston Southern (S.C.) University. She averaged 12.9 points per game between her pair of collegiate stops across the Southeast.
She was the Lady Tigers' leading scorer for two consecutive seasons and as a result garnered Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) All-State distinction twice.
The Walnut High School graduate pieced together a brilliant sophomore campaign. She posted 16.4 points and a team-best 8.7 rebounds to earn National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-Region 23 honors as well.
Wilbanks reached double figures in all but two of her 49 straight starts at Northeast. She also produced 20 double-doubles throughout her sensational tenure in the City of Hospitality.
She set career-highs during her freshman year of 33 points and 18 rebounds in the Lady Tigers' victory at Arkansas State University Mid-South. It was one of three 30-point performances for Wilbanks between Northeast and Charleston Southern.
The 6-0 forward received MACJC Player of the Week recognition four times while at Northeast, which is now tied for second most in program history behind only Dayzsha Rogan.
She was selected to compete in the 2017 MACJC All-Star Game. Wilbanks acquired the NJCAA Exemplary Academic Achievement Award following her freshman campaign as well for her success in the classroom.
"I'm happy to be representing Northeast," said Wilbanks. "It means so much because this is where I got started and I met so many great people that have helped me throughout this process."
Wilbanks averaged 9.7 points and 4.6 rebounds over 63 total appearances in the last two seasons with the Lady Buccaneers. She helped Charleston Southern advance to the Big South Conference Tournament semifinals as a senior.
She was named to the 2019 Big South All-Tournament team after recording a 14-point, 14-rebound effort in a quarterfinal victory over High Point (N.C.) University. Wilbanks also tallied 15 points during an opening round triumph over the University of South Carolina Upstate.
Wilbanks scored in double-digits during 11 of her final 12 contests for the Lady Buccaneers, which included a double-double of 22 points and 11 boards in a home win over Gardner-Webb (N.C.) University.