High-level basketball is filled with stories of players who experienced growth spurts — turning ball-handling guards into uniquely skilled forwards or centers. The Wolves' Karl-Anthony Towns stands out as a prime example.
On a different court, the Gophers' Melani Shaffmaster is another.
Shaffmaster, a sophomore setter for the Gophers volleyball team, stands out at the position while standing 6-foot-3. In a sport known for height, setters often check in under 6 feet tall; former Gophers standout Samantha Seliger-Swenson, for example, is listed at 5-11.
Shaffmaster was trending that way as a youth player until she reached middle school.
"I think probably between sixth and eighth grade I probably grew a foot," Shaffmaster said during an appearance on Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast. "And then I haven't grown that much since freshman year in high school."
After that growth spurt, she committed to the Gophers as an eighth-grader out of New Castle, Ind.
"I just knew I wanted to play in the Big Ten," Shaffmaster said of the quick recruiting process. "I came here and I literally couldn't stop smiling."
Now a sophomore, Shaffmaster will be a key part of the Gophers' attack as they face Baylor on Thursday in the NCAA regional semifinal in Madison, Wis.
Her unique blend of size and ability makes her more versatile than some setters. She can get up to block at the net. She can easily dump balls over on offense to catch opponents by surprise.
"I haven't played with a setter that tall in all my years," said Gophers middle blocker Katie Myers, who at 6-2 is an inch shorter than Shaffmaster. "It definitely makes blocking a lot easier with her. ... And just her high contact point. It's so nice to watch her get up and set a perfect ball."
That said, the biggest thing Shaffmaster has said she has learned over the years of is that you don't always have to be perfect on every possession to get the job done at a position that she says is 40% skill and 60% mental ability to process the court.
"Being able to allow yourself to know you're not going to make the right decision every single time is probably a hard part," she said.