Friday, December 17, 2010

Exclusive Q&A with veteran PG Eddie Shannon. Size of the heart and passion for the game. And now a new challenge: "A Foundation to keep the kids off the streets"

Former Gator Eddie Shannon, the  5-11 point-guard from Riviera Beach, Florida, talked to Basketball Telegraph columnist Dr FingerRoll about his long and successful career overseas and about the accident that could have changed his life and his professional career, but simply couldn’t. Why? Too big his heart, too deep his love for the game.

Eddie, you were born and raised in Florida, where football is probably the most popular sport. Have you always been a bball guy or were there other sports attracting you?

Growing up I played basketball, baseball, and football. Many people from my community think that I was better at baseball and football when I was young. I stop playing baseball and football at the age of 16. But I follow them closely! I have a huge love for football.

How did you fall in love with the game? Any childhood memories related to basketball that you want to share with our readers?

I started trying to play at the age of 6. I'm not sure how I fell in love, maybe because I was always more talented than the kids my age but I was also the smallest most of the time. But I was a sports fanatic and I was very good at basketball, baseball, and football. There was something about bball that interested me a little more than the others.

When you were a teenager something happened to you that could have changed your life dramatically. Can you tell us that episode please and how did you react and fought through it to become a pro basketball player?

Well, in a freak accident playing with friends, I was hit in the eye with a rock at the age of 13 (nothing dramatic). It happened during the morning before school. Later that evening I played in a youth football league game. After the game my eye began to bother and was very red. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed as having a bloodclot and it had to be surgically removed. My family wasn't rich so we went to a doctor that we could afford, so apparently the doctor didn't clean out all of the blood from my eye. My eye got infected and within 6 months I needed another surgery because the infection caused me to develop a cataract in the eye. This took more time away from sports. The cataract was removed but my vision never became clear again. I never complained because I didn't want to miss anymore time from playing sports. Basically, after that football game that night I could never see 100% out of my right eye. Eventually I lost all vision before my senior year in college.

After a brilliant career at University of Florida (as a serion you led a young Gator team to the Sweet Sixteen) were you expecting a call from the NBA or playing overseas was your first choice?

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect. I knew teams would be concerned about my eye. But if they knew the size of my heart and my passion for bball they wouldn't worry about it. I played very well in the pre-draft camps and I had great workouts for Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, and Golden State Warriors. But no one drafted me. I was a bit disappointed. I was drafted 2nd in the ABA, which no longer exists and I never went there.

You played in Sweden, Russia, Italy, Greece, France, Croatia, Latvia and you just signed for Australian League’s Adelaide 36ers. Is it difficult to adjust lifestyle and adapt to places that are so different from home and so different one year to the next?

It's tough but it's my job. I'm very easy to get along with, so I've never really had a problem with new teammates. I've actually had a lot of fun learning new cultures and seeing new places. The toughest part is being away from family for extended periods of time.

Eddie, in all the teams you played you left nice memories and the local fans are always happy to see you play even if you wear a different jersey. Why is that according to you?

I think so because I'm a good person. I'm very humble and I treat everyone with respect whether they are 5 or 65. People respect that because some sportsmen are arrogant and disrespectful.

You're 33 and your career is far from over, but are you already thinking about the future and what you're going to do after the pro years will be over?

I'm not exactly sure but it will certainly be involved with basketball. I wanna coach. Maybe volunteer at a high school. I really want to work with my oldest son because he loves sports and I don't get to spend enough time playing with him.

Can you tell us something about the Camp you started out in Florida last summer?

It was a camp that I did in my hometown for kids 5-17. It's something that I will continue to do each year. I started it because my community did so much for me when I was growing up and I want to give back. Share some of my knowledge and experiences with the kids, so they can see that they can make it from where we come from. Because it's not easy! Me and my best friend have a foundation called UBBL (Using Basketball To Better Lives). We provide programs and activities to keep the kids off the streets.

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