Shea Ralph seemed destined to play basketball. Her mother was an All-American at UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina and was good friends with Tennessee coach, Pat Summitt. Shea started playing basketball at six years and immediately fell in love with the game. By the time she was eleven years old, she was on an AAU team and was practicing basketball fundamentals every day. Even though she was young, Shea already knew she was going to get a college scholarship for basketball.
Shea attended Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She was named Athlete of the Year by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. At the time of the award, she held 17 basketball records; she eventually ended her high school career with 3002 points. The National Honor Society member was a recipient of the Dial Award, presented annually to the top male and female high-school athlete/scholar in the United States. In 1996, Shea was named the USA Today National High School Player of the Year.
Shea succeeded in getting a college basketball scholarship to the University of Connecticut and played for Coach Geno Auriemma. According to the UConn Hoop Legend webpage, Shea has said, “I was just completely taken by Connecticut as soon as I talked to them on the phone. I made a trip out to see the campus, and meet the team, and I felt so comfortable at CT, and that was it. I knew that CT was the place for me.”
During the years she played a full or partial season, the team had a record of 130-10. In Big East play, the team lost only two games in four seasons for a combined record of 66-2. UConn won the Big East Regular season Championship and the post-season Big East Tournament Championship all four years. The team went to the NCAA Tournament all four years, making at least the Sweet Sixteen each time. In her last two years, the team made the Final Four.
As a freshman, Shea won the Big East Rookie of the Year award. She holds the All-time Record 3-point shooting for a single Big East Season (.517). Her performance in the 1999 Big East Tournament earned her the Most Outstanding Performer award.
As captain of the 2000 squad, Shea was recognized as the 2000 Big East Player of the Year and voted All-Big East first team. She was selected Most Valuable Player at the 2000 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four -- ultimately leading the Huskies to a decisive victory over Tennessee in the National Championship game. During that same year, Shea was a Naismith Player of the Year finalist, earned first team Kodak and Associated Press All-America honors was selected as Sports Illustrated for Women Player of the Year and was the recipient of the Honda Award, presented to the top female collegiate athlete in each of the 12 collegiate sports. Shea was also a member of the 2000 U.S. Jones Cup Gold Medal team, pacing the squad in scoring (12.0 ppg) and steals (1.75 spg).
Shea completed her career with 1,678 points and ranked among the program’s top ten career leaders in assists (456), steals (252) and field goal percentage (.579). She was a member of five Big East Championship teams.
Shea graduated from UConn in 2001 with a degree in exercise physiology. She was drafted in the third round by the Utah Starzz but because of injuries, was never able to play in the WNBA. She spent five years as an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburg before returning to UConn in 2008 as an assistant coach. Shea was a member of the inaugural class (2006) of inductees to the University of Connecticut women's basketball "Huskies of Honor" recognition program.