Kendal Shell left Webster Groves for Minneapolis in 2011 to play basketball for the University of Minnesota, recruited as a preferred walk-on and later earning a scholarship.
An accomplished basketball and baseball player at Webster Groves High School, Shell experienced big-time college basketball and got a degree in business marketing with minors in leadership and sports management. He melded sports and faith, the basics of which he developed at St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood. A member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes since elementary school, he spearheaded Athletes in Action and Bible study groups for his college basketball team and other Gopher athletes.
Shell had trained with and played in basketball showcases with and against another St. Louisan who went to Minneapolis for college, Chauncee Hollingsworth, a sought-after sports trainer. Hollingsworth told Shell about an idea for a nonprofit called Hoops and Christ, eventually using it for his training work. After Shell began work on a master’s degree in sports management his senior year while still playing on the court, they further developed the idea.
Hoops and Christ now is a thriving operation, developing outstanding, humble athletes, increasing their determination and desire while focusing on a mission to spread God’s love and hope through the game of basketball, “person first, player second.”
Shell describes it as developing leaders in the community. “It teaches kids about their faith and how their faith pushes them to excel on the court, essentially. Knowing who you are and knowing what motivates you is huge,” he said.
It’s fun growing the organization and spreading positivity around basketball, Shell explained. A requirement is praying before and after training. “Every single workout and camp we do involves understanding and being thankful for what you have, your faith and everything God has given you. There’s something about that which is powerful and just makes you go even harder on the court. We just want to spread God’s love, and basketball is just the language we speak.”
In the Minneapolis area, they’ve worked with some Catholic schools. They’re now in a position to continue building more disciples to carry out the work to strategically grow Hoops and Christ.
Shell has seen a lot of athletes transform with faith, including elite athletes who are playing professionally. He cited several college players that they’ve helped who are excelling today. “We’ll never take credit for how they’re producing, but we’ll take a lot of credit for making sure they’re good men and women and have good faith. That’s a big piece of it,” Shell said.
His parents, Gloria and William Shell, and his grandparents instilled faith and values in him and his three brothers. “The idea of sports — I played basketball, baseball and soccer — and the idea of faith always are intertwined with me. Mainly because I grew up in that CYC program. It’s always been stressed that I can’t play without the talents and the help God has provided me. When it came to that conversation about Hoops and Christ it was a no-brainer because it’s always been like that for me growing up in that Catholic and St. Peter Church background.”
It also helped him gain an ability to interact with people from all walks of life. He was the only Black player on a CYC team for eight years. “I got real comfortable being uncomfortable really early. I would play basketball in St. Louis City leagues, and there’d be one white kid on the team and I could connect with him. That’s my strength.”
He sees basketball as a common language that can end a lot of racial problems, building leaders in the community.
Kenny is a staff writer for the Review and a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville.