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Merced College basketball duo sign with Hawaii schools

There was a time when Lavell Shipman's future seemed uncertain.

The Merced College sophomore suffered a collapsed lung during a road game at Fresno City.

The cause: Pneumothorax, a collection of air or gas in the chest or pleural space that causes part or all of a lung to collapse.

Shipman had already suffered the injury twice, first when he was a senior in high school and again during first year at MC.

After the second incident, he had a surgery that was supposed to prevent it from ever happening again.

Even a third flare up wasn't enough to keep Shipman down.

"I wasn't ever concerned that it would end my basketball career," Shipman said.

"The doctor said that since it happened again, it really shouldn't be a problem anymore.

"I know that nothing is 100 percent, but I'm going to trust the doctor on this."

With a clean bill of health, Shipman finished up an excellent sophomore campaign, leading the Blue Devils with 14.4 points per game.

Shipman also averaged nearly six rebounds, two assists and 1.5 steals per game.

The guard's versatility and dependability caught the eye of the University of Hawaii-Hilo, a Division II school, which offered him a full scholarship.

"I'm very pleased with how things turned out," Shipman said. "It would have been nice to win a few more games at MC, but I got my AA and a full ride. I accomplished what I came here to do."

MC men's coach Bill Russell views the signing as a just reward.

"He came in with a great attitude and he's stayed pretty grounded, whether he's had success or things have been tough," Russel said. "He's kept himself together. He was a good leader for us, too, with us being so young."

Shipman isn't the only Blue Devil headed to Hawaii.

Lady Devils sophomore shooting guard Ashley Willison will be playing for Chaminade University, an NAIA school.

Like Shipman, Willison knows all about overcoming adversity.

A torn ACL and meniscus erased her 2007-08 season.

This year, Willison adjusted to life with a knee that will never quite be the same again.

The sharpshooter finished third on MC with 21 3-pointers.

"I never allowed myself to have a negative thought about the injury," Willison said. "I just kept working hard and doing everything I could to keep playing.

"There's no cartilage left in my knee, so the grinding of bone on bone can hurt.

"I told the Chaminade coach that I'm going to work hard no matter what and won't ever use that as an excuse.

"She said that's the kind of player she's looking for."

Willison's signing brings Allen Huddleston's record class up to six.

"With the knee surgery and the way the knee seemed to bother her off and on all season, it's definitely very rewarding," Huddleston said. "She's a great shooter and knows how to fight through the pain.

"I think she'll be a nice addition for Chaminade."