Friday, October 31, 2008

Decatur Rec Alum makes the GA Tech Hoops Team!

Sam Shew, who grew up playing in the Decatur Youth Basketball program, and then for Decatur High, is now a member of the 2008-09 Georgia Tech Men's Basketball Team.

This below is from the Decatur Bulldogs Athletic Booster Club newsletter. Vicki Ainslie does a fantastic job with news and notices for the newsletter.

2007 DHS Alumnus, Sam Shew, Named a Walk-On to Georgia Tech Basketball Team

Former Decatur basketball standout Sam Shew learned that he'd made the Georgia Tech team last Friday night when he received a call from an assistant coach. "Whatta you doing tomorrow morning," the coach said. "Nothing much," Sam replied. "Just hanging out." The coach said, "We have practice at 11. I'd advise you to show up." Thus, the 2007 Decatur graduate learned that he'd become the Yellow Jackets only walk-on.

Originally Tech coach Paul Hewitt had no spots available for walk-ons. But when senior guard D'Andre Bell was diagnosed on Oct. 22 with a congenital condition known as spinal stenois (he will miss the entire season, and perhaps might not ever play again), Hewitt needed one more player. The 6-5 Shew, who was given a tryout on Oct. 8, got the call.

"It's a little surreal, a little amazing, and the opportunity of a lifetime" Sam said when I reached him by phone. "I still haven't talked to [Hewitt] yet, so I'm not entirely sure of my role. I'm kind of a leader type, so I think one of the things they'll want me to do is to get others involved, to push them on defense, and push them during drills. I'm sure I won't be asked to shoot too much, but that they'll want me to keep guys from getting complacent.

"One thing they told me," Sam said laughing, "is that the easiest way to get kicked off the team is hurt any of the [regular] players. Sure enough, in my first practice I elbowed one of the starters. I got a few looks, but everything's cool."I've known Sam since he was 10, when Mike Tierney and I were his first coaches in the Decatur Recreation League. I distinctly remember the very first practice when I was demonstrating how to throw a bounce pass which, for most 9- and 10-year-olds, is a complicated process. Not for Shew. At age 10 Shew not only believed he was the planet's best bounce passer, but was convinced he could deliver one in the nimble, grandiose style of the Harlem Globetrotters. When I crouched into a defensive stance, Sam bounced the ball directly through my legs which, of course, didn't come close to being caught by any teammate. Indeed, the ball slowly trickled untouched to the far end of the court. "Son," I said, "I want you to chase that ball down for me. After that, I want you to start running suicides until I tell you to stop." Which he did, one after another. He ran them so efficiently and quietly I completely forgot about him for about 15, 20, maybe 30 minutes. Finally another player, the legendary Jeron Stone (also 10 at the time), tugged at my shirt and said, "Coach, Shew's still runnin' and I think he's fixin' to die." Right then, I knew the kid had a work ethic.

Sam played four years of varsity for Carter Wilson, and started every game his junior and senior years, averaging roughly 12 points and 8 rebounds. He was never, in any game he played, the most talented player on the floor, but no one played harder. The game I remember most vividly was late in his senior season at Buford. I'm not checking any statistics here - I'm relying strictly on memory, which can be tricky and often inaccurate. But I believe that game went into overtime, and Sam played all 32 minutes of regulation and the first 4 minutes of OT, until he fouled out. I have never, on any level, seen anyone play with more desire, more passion and a more preternatural sense of anticipation. He must've drawn a dozen charges that night - he seemed to know where every offensive player was going before the player himself knew it. When he wasn't sprawled on the floor, he was in precisely the right spot for a rebound, or a steal, or a deflection, or an offensive put-back. Because Coach Wilson demands so much of his players, particularly the defensive end, it's rare that anyone plays close to an entire game, much less an overtime to boot.

When Sam finally fouled out that night, he collapsed so hard on the bench I though he was going to require oxygen. It was an absolutely inspired performance, and I can understand why Hewitt, or any Division I coach would want somebody like Sam on his practice floor day in and day out."These guys are pretty talented here," Sam said, referring to his Tech teammates. "But I feel like I belong. I've always played against players bigger and better than me. That stuff doesn't faze me. I've always felt as long as I've hustled and fought that I could play with anyone. I've always set high expectations for myself."Sam is currently a sophomore at Tech, majoring in Industrial Engineering with a 3.7 grade point average. As my own grandfather would've said, had he known Sam, "The boy has some sense."Coach Wilson, preparing for his 17th season as a collegiate or high school head coach (he won his 300th game early last season), had this to say about Sam's good fortune:"I am thrilled that Sam Shew was selected to be a member of the basketball team at Georgia Tech. This is living proof that big dreams and hard work can pay off in a major way if you are willing to persevere. While playing basketball in the Atlantic Coast Conference is an extremely tough task, I am confident that Sam will arrive early, stay late, and do what is necessary to fill an important role on this team.""Completing a roster is a very difficult task for a coach. You must select the right person or you can destroy team chemistry. I know that Coach Hewitt and his staff were looking for a player with talent, character, and dependability. They certainly found all of those traits in Sam Shew. I am proud of Sam and I know that he will do a great job."

In regards to his former coach Sam said, "Coach Wilson was an integral part of my success, a true mentor. He always liked to tell these motivational stories relating to former players who did well, saying if this or that player did it, so can you. Well, when I told him I made the team, he said that I would be the subject of his next motivational story. That's been the dream of my life. I just wish I could be there to hear it."
- Bill Banks

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