One of the most highly sought after recruits in Washington basketball history, Craig Shelton finished his senior season with an undefeated 29-0 record at Washington's Dunbar HS, averaging 24 points and 23 rebounds a game. With dozens of major colleges looking to sign the 6-7 forward, Shelton suffered a serious knee injury in a high school all-star game, and many schools began to go elsewhere. One school that didn't go away was Georgetown, which offered Shelton the opportunity to rehabilitate his knee and join his high school teammate John Duren with the up and coming Hoyas.
Shelton missed all of seven games of his freshman season, but offering fans hope for the future. He unexpectedly returned to the injury list early in his sophomore season, fracturing his wrist and missing five games. With his right hand in a heavy bandage the remaining 19 games, Shelton began to assert himself on the court, scoring 20 or more points eight times en route to a 14.1 average in 1978, with a pair of 25 point games against Maryland and North Carolina State.
One of Shelton's memorable games came late in his sophomore season against the 19-1 Detroit Titans, ranked 17th in the AP poll. The Titans featured three future NBA players in John Long, Terry Tyler, and Terry Duerod, and entered the game averaging a remarkable 93.5 points per game. Shelton helped shut down the high flying Titans, while his 20 points carried the Hoyas to the brink of the upset. In the final minute, Shelton drove to the basket and dunked over Detroit's Terry Tyler to seal the win, 82-80.
Shelton joined Dunbar teammate John Duren to carry the Hoyas in the 1978 NIT following Derrick Jackson's departure due to an ulcer. Shelton shot 61 percent from the field, averaging 16 points and nine rebounds for the Hoyas as they advanced to the NIT semifinals. The 1978 season was proclaimed by some as the Hoyas' best season ever, but Shelton was about to surpass it not once, but twice.
For 1978-79, Shelton continued to be the Hoyas' most accurate shooter, hitting 60 percent from the field and finishing nine points short of the scoring title. He led the team in rebounding, despite being only the fourth tallest player on the roster. He scored a season high 26 points and 12 rebounds in narrow loss to Oral Roberts, and was consistently recognized as the area's top player, with ECAC weekly honors four times, the D.C. Player of the Year trophy, and honorable mention All-America honors.
Shelton's strong play continued into the 1979-80 season. A 10 for 10 effort from the field nearly snared Georgetown an upset of #1 Indiana early in the season, while two weeks later he matched the 10 for 10 from the free throw line in a 22 point effort versus Houston. While particularly effective against non-conference opponents (21 against Detroit, 22 against Holy Cross and Northeastern, and 23 versus U.S. International, including a run of 21 consecutive field goals over four games), it was Shelton's strength in the inaugural Big East season that led Georgetown to assert itself at the onset of the new league.
In Big East play, Shelton opened with 18 points and 10 points in a win over Providence, followed by 20 points and 10 rebounds in the hoyas' narrow loss to Boston College. He scored in double figures in every conference game that season, none more important than his 17 points in Georgetown's 52-50 win at #2-ranked Syracuse, the final game at Manley Field House. Shelton averaged 16 points a game as Georgetown won the first Big East tournament title, and he was named the tournament's inaugural MVP.
No game may have been more important in Craig Shelton's career than the first round of the 1980 NCAA tournament. Three prior Georgetown teams had gone to the NCAA in the John Thompson era, and all three lost in the first round. The Big East champions found themselves seeded a disappointing third in the Eastern regional, seeded below both a Maryland team they had defeated earlier in the season and a Syracuse team they had defeated twice in the prior three weeks. To avoid a fourth straight one-and-out, they would need a big game from Shelton against Jeff Ruland and the 29-4 Iona Gaels.
Ruland was held to 16 points and seven rebounds, but the battle up front with Shelton and senior Alex Middleton was the story. Middleton turned in a career game with 18 points and 13 rebounds, but Shelton answered with 27 points in the Hoyas' 74-71 win, which drove the Hoyas towards a historic meeting with Maryland in the regional semifinal. Shelton was held to seven points in the Maryland game due to foul trouble, but scored 16 in the season finale versus Iowa.
Craig Shelton ended his college career as the third ranked scorer at Georgetown despite playing just over three years. Chosen in the second round by the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, Shelton played just over a season for the Hawks, with a career high 19 in a game against Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers.