KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz forward Shavon Shields is thriving in his debut Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season. He is starting for the team, averaging 7.9 points on 40.6% three-point shooting plus 2.7 rebounds per game and he and his teammates are currently in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Shields grew up in the middle of America, in Kansas City, and played college basketball at the University of Nebraska from 2012 to 2016. He became one of the best scorers in the history of the program and excelled in the classroom, too. After graduating, Shields decided to pursue a professional basketball career in Europe and signed his first deal in Germany with Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt. He played in the 7DAYS EuroCup the next season with Dolomiti Energia Trento, which set the stage for his move to Baskonia.
The Shields family was well equipped for their son and brother's sporting success. Shavon's father, Will Shields, played 14 seasons of professional football as an offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, was named to 12 straight NFL Pro Bowls (the equivalent of the all-star game) and chosen to the All-Pro team seven times. Will Shields was inducted to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2015. Shavon was born directly into a competitive sporting atmosphere.
"If I could be half the person [my father] was, it would be pretty good!"
"Sports were always a part of our life growing up," Shavon explained. "Going to [my father's] work was to wait in football stadiums and things like that, so it was always really prevalent in our life."
What maybe few expected was that football was not the path in front of young Shavon.
"Maybe the natural thing would have been for me to try football, but I never did," Shavon said. "My parents always let me make my own decisions, and pushed me to do what I enjoyed and from a young age I always gravitated towards basketball."
Needless to say, trying to match his dad's career in basketball would be a huge feat, and also almost impossible, so Shields acknowledges it and tries to make the most out of his background.
"The position I am in now is a little different than where my father was," Shavon said. "But he's always been a great role model and something to aspire to with the amount of success he's had in his sport and the community. So, if I could be half the person he was, it would be pretty good!"
Shields' mother, Senia, grew up in from Denmark and went to America to study at the same University of Nebraska, where she met Will. His mother's European background came to life every summer when the whole family would travel to the Old Continent to visit the family and get to know new places.
"We came to Europe all the time in the summertime," he recalled. "We would always take a family trip in July. For the first couple of days, we would go to somewhere in Europe: London, France... And then, for the last three weeks, we would go visit my mom's family in Denmark. Everyone still lives there."
"If you can immerse yourself into the culture a little bit, I think it makes it easier."
This upbringing gave young Shavon an edge when he came to Europe to play. He didn't have to deal with the cultural transition from the United States to Europe.
"Adapting to the cultural differences in Europe when I first came here to play wasn't hard at all," Shields said. "I was way used to it. I had been around here before. Not all players have that luck. It is a tough transition."
But if he needed any help, Shields knew the secret to overcome that obstacle, which can sometimes be insurmountable for some players: "If you can immerse yourself into the culture a little bit, I think it makes it easier."
After playing for three clubs in as many countries in his first three seasons of pro basketball as well as appearing for Denmark in international play, Shields certainly has had a chance to do just that.