Bedford will walk on for Red Flash

By Philip Cmor

A lot of athletes use a parlay an athletic scholarship into a college degree and a career down the road.

Bedford’s Allison Shuke did the reverse — she used her intended major as a means to help her continue her athletic career at the highest level.

Turning down a number of suitors from Division III colleges where she likely would have starred, Shuke, the 5-foot-9 guard who played such an instrumental role in turning around the Lady Bisons program and turning them into a district championship contender, has arranged to walk on to Joe Haigh’s team at Saint Francis University after enrolling at the Loretto school in the fall.

“I had a couple of Division III schools looking at me, but Saint Francis kind of came into the picture whenever I decided that I wanted to become a physician’s assistant,” Shuke said. “I knew that they were Division I, so it’s going to be a challenge, and I’m going to have to work really hard, but I’m going to accept that challenge, and I’m going to go for it.”

On the surface, it might seem odd that Shuke wasn’t considered for at least a partial ride somewhere. She’s coming off a career in which she scored a school-record 1,598 points, averaging 17.6 points for her four-year career.

As a senior, she recorded 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists per contest as Bedford went 18-6 and lost to Forest Hills in double-overtime in the District 6 Class 4A championship game — unfortunately, only one team advanced to interdistricts from the classification, and Forest Hills narrowly missed advancing to the state quarterfinals. It was the second consecutive year the Lady Rangers denied Bedford a shot at the PIAA tournament.

Shuke did that against some of the best competition the state had to offer in the Laurel Highlands Conference. The Lady Bisons beat Class 2A state finalist Bishop Guilfoyle and her future teammate Haley Thomas once as she scored 32 points and nearly pulled off a sweep of the Lady Crushers. She fired in 29 points in a 71-63 loss at Bishop Guilfoyle, which made the state quarterfinals.

The Lady Bisons also played Forest Hills twice, along with PIAA semifinalist Bishop Carroll and state qualifiers Central Cambria and Everett. Haigh has a daughter that plays for Carroll.

“Allison is very unselfish. Anytime we played the big teams, her game stepped up,” Bedford coach Mark Dillow said. “I think she wanted to be there at the end and just took it upon herself to really take off, and the other girls wanted to do it for Allison, so they stepped up.”

The daughter of Blaine and Melody Shuke and the older sister of Bedford’s second-leading scorer, Lindsay, Allison also was a state qualifier in soccer and doubles tennis. Juniata, Saint Vincent and Mount Aloysius were among the colleges that were recruiting her hardest before Saint Francis invited her to walk on.

She’ll play mostly a two guard for the Red Flash.

“I’m definitely going to have to work on my ballhandling and my outside shooting. They players at that level are bigger, faster and stronger, so I’m going to have to work hard over the summer,” Shuke said. “I had to think about it a lot. I knew if I went to a Division III school, I was going to play more. If I played for this Division I team, I’m not going to be the star. I had to accept that.

“My first year, I might be a practice dummy, but I just have to work hard and earn my playing time.”

Dillow thinks the Flash got a steal.

“Allison has a great basketball IQ. She’s great on defense,” Dillow said. “I know she can play Division I. I’m comfortable in what she can take control on the court, and she’ll work hard.”