Australian Jaz Shelley helping NU put up the points
Story by Shane G. Gilster • Photos by Amarillo Mullen, NU Athletic Communications
The Huskers are benefiting from having more of an Aussie flavor to their team this season. Besides returning Australian players Isabelle (Issie) Bourne and Ruby Porter, Nebraska has added Jaz Shelley, a sophomore from Moe, Australia, who played on the Australian National Team this year. Shelley’s presence has really elevated the Husker offense.
In the first two games of the season, Nebraska scored 100-plus points in back-toback wins for the first time in school history. In the second game against Prairie View A&M, Shelley had her first career collegiate double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
The Huskers (5-0) also scored 113 points in the fifth game of the year, which marked the first time in school history that Nebraska has scored 100 points or more three different times in the same season.
Shelley once again came up big with a triple-double (14 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in only 20 minutes of play. It is only the fourth time in school history that a Husker has recorded a triple-double.
“Sam [Haiby] was keeping track of me getting close to a triple-double,” said Shelley about her record-setting performance. “She told me at halftime that I was on track to get it. The coaches then wanted me to go and get it. This program means so much to me already and I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else. It is cool to put my name in the books.”
Through their first five games, the Huskers are averaging 95.6 points per game with a field goal percentage of 50 percent. Shelley has become a big part of the reason why the NU offense is rolling.
“Our team is more explosive offensively this year because of the newcomers like Jaz who is a shooter which gives us more scoring options,” Bourne said. “I have known Jaz for five years now. She has always been a great shooter but also a great passer which is why I love playing with her. She is a type of player that makes everyone around her better.
“She works well with Sam and that gives us two really good shooters with Sam attacking and Jaz on the outside knocking down shots. Jaz and I have really good chemistry, she knows where I want the ball down low and I know where she wants it on the threepoint line.”
Shelley feels really comfortable on Nebraska’s team, not only in her role as a player, but also with her communication with teammates. In her two years at Oregon, her desired playing style didn’t fit the Ducks.
“At Oregon, I was more of a spot-up shooter,” Shelley said. “I have more free range here at Nebraska and can be a playmaker, which I like. My ability is to get in the lane and pass the ball and also coming off ball screens and getting to the paint. I played wing at Oregon and didn’t get a chance at point guard. I like setting up people and plays, I’m more of a structure person and playing in a system like Nebraska’s.
“It is nice to be able to play with Ruby and Issie because we can really understand each other. When I was the only Australian player at Oregon, I would say something and no one would have my back because they couldn’t understand me.”
Shelley showed a glimpse of what she was capable of at Oregon appearing in all 33 games as a true freshman in 2019-20. The Ducks won the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles. Shelley averaged 6.3 points, 1.5 assists and 1.0 rebounds, while hitting 42 percent of her three-point attempts.
In her only start of the season, Shelley finished with 32 points in the game while setting the Oregon single-game record by going 10-for-14 from three-point range. Now one of the main starters at Nebraska, she is hoping to have more of those type of performances.
“When I was a senior in high school, I decided between Oregon and Nebraska, so I knew Nebraska was going to be the place to transfer to. The love our team has for each other is a huge difference from Oregon; we just enjoy playing with each other on the court.”
Nebraska head coach Amy Williams was glad she got a second opportunity at Shelley. “It is so rewarding just to see Jaz in a Husker uniform,” Williams said. “A lot went into her coming here. And now to watch her playing with joy and enjoying her teammates; she is really playing free and loose and it is fun to watch.”
Shelley’s shooting prowess before she arrived at Nebraska was sort of legendary to her Husker teammates.
“The first thing I heard about Jaz Shelly was that she made 21 three-pointers in a game or some crazy number like that, so I knew Jaz was a shooter,” said NU freshman Alexis Markowski. “Over summer practices she wouldn’t miss and that just confirmed it.”
Through five games this season, Shelley and teammate Ashley Scoggin lead the team in three-point shots made (12). Shelley is 54 percent from three-point land on 12 of 22 shooting. She prides herself in her shooting which shows in the way she practices.
“I practice shooting every day,” she said. “To get ready for games, I do a 30-minute shoot around with Coach [Chuck] Love after our team shoot around. Then Ashley and I will come out 30 minutes before the team does and shoot some more. It locks me in because I like set routines. I shoot mid-range and layups first then move to the three-point line. I want to have the highest assist to turnover ratio on our team this season but also shoot above 40 percent from the three-point line.”
Shelley has her own style of shooting from beyond the arch.
“I don’t realize that I shoot so far from behind the three-point line until I notice it later. Defenses guard me pretty close because they know I’m a shooter, so I step back a little further so I can get the shot off,” she said.
The Huskers and Shelley are developing into such a close-knit group that they motivate themselves to perform.
“The team has a healthy competition going on with who will be the leading rebounder. Normally it has been Issie, Sam and Bella [Cravens] but now they have to take Jaz seriously,” Williams said.
Shelley currently leads the team in blocked shots (8) and in rebounds (43 total, 8.6 per game), grabbing a season-high 11 in the second game of the season.
“I never used to be able to rack up as many as 11 rebounds in a game before. A lot of them have been defensive rebounds,” Shelley admitted.
The mark of a good team is how well rounded it is, and having multiple players step up to score and contribute in other areas on the stat sheet.
“I feel like we are going to have different players be the top scorer in every game because everyone has the ability to score. Our team is pretty similar to an international style that I’m used to, with motion sets and dribble drives,” Shelley said.
Nebraska has the makings of that type of squad and having a player like Shelley is helping make that happen.
“Jaz is playing very confidently and makes our whole team better when she is out on the floor,” Williams said. “There is a confidence when Jaz has the ball in her hands. It hasn’t taken her long to get in tuned with the team. She’s calling out a transition play before I could say it. It shows her IQ for the game and ability to get five people on the same page on the court. There is a comfort level on the whole team when she has the ball in her hands.”