Shanna Zolman had a great basketball career. During her high school playing days from 1998-2002 at Wawasee High School in Syracuse, Indiana, she led the state in scoring four years in a row, averaging more than 30 points a game each year.
Scoring 3,085 points during that time, she passed the state record of 2,869 points set by Seeger High School star Stephanie White, who later played at Purdue, and is now the coach of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. With her dad as coach during this time, Shanna was an easy choice for Miss Basketball in 2002.
Her top choice to play at college was the University of Tennessee, coached by the legendary Pat Summit. As she told me in a recent interview for the program “Face to Face,” “I always wanted to be the best, and to play at the best. That was either Tennessee or Connecticut, and I hated Connecticut.”
At Tennessee, it was more of the same. More wins, more records. She played in every game for two years for the Volunteers, leading the way mostly from the free-throw line. She still holds the NCAA record for percentage in a season (.957 in 2003-04) and career percentage (.915).
Following her time at UT, the WNBA was a natural fit, and the 5-foot-10-inch guard was drafted as the 16th player in the 2006 draft by the San Antonio Silver Stars. It was seemingly a Cinderella life, especially when she married her college sweetheart, Tennessee running back Andrew Crossley, whom she met at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting.
Throughout her career from high school on, Shanna had made it known what it meant to be a Christian athlete.
She had accepted Christ in her church at age 7, and was not shy about being a Christian role model. But in 2008, life started to come apart for the superstar athlete. First, she went down with a knee injury in a Silver Stars preseason game, then she saw her marriage begin to fail.
She began to feel an emptiness. She rehabbed her knee and came back with the Silver Stars in 2009, but in April 2010 she was traded to the Tulsa Shock. More problems came in the winter of 2011.
“I was playing in Tarsus, Turkey,” she said, “the home of Paul the Apostle, and I wanted nothing to do with God or my husband. My knee injury was the least of my worries. Basketball was all I knew.”
She cried out to God, and he responded.
“God got hold of me and completely transformed me,” she said.
Shanna realized there was life beyond basketball and God had bigger plans.
She turned to her mentor and coaching friend, Summit, whose husband had also been unfaithful to her. To find spiritual strength, she lived for a time in her former coach’s pool house.
“I knew I was called to ministry,” she said.
As we sat in her home recently back in Syracuse, she explained her feelings of today.
“Talking about Jesus, I am passionate,” she said.
She currently works for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on the campus of the University of Washington, and is a prominent speaker. She ministers to women who have gone through the same difficulties she experienced.
Her favorite verse says it all.
“I like Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”), not because God gives you all the answers, but because he is there when the times are tough.”
The grit and toughness Shanna brought to the court, she now brings to her ministry as she works for the Lord.
Columbus’ Tom Rust leads the national Face To Face sports ministry, is a local radio sports broadcaster, and is pastor of Sardinia Baptist Church. He can be reached at [email protected].