Mike Shaw is a 6'-8" power forward from De La Salle High School in the Chicago Catholic League. He was regarded as the "next big thing" of Windy City hoops since before he enrolled in high school. The forward is now leading his team into the state tournament as a senior and is a key piece to the 2011 Illinois recruiting class.
He recently played on senior night and for the last time on the floor that is the only home court he has ever known. It was a tough test for Shaw and company against the #1 ranked player in the nation Anthony Davis and his Perspectives teammates. The senior discussed the night's festivities.
"It was hard for me to play my last game on my home court which I have been playing on since I was little. I'm happy we pulled out the win. Everybody stepped up, and we got the job done."
Senior night is always a moment of reflection, looking back on what has accomplished in four years of high school.
"I will miss the fans. I want to thank everybody for their support."
De La Salle is not known as the basketball factory other Chicago schools such as Simeon and Whitney Young are. This is where Shaw wanted to play because it was home. He has put the program on the map for high school basketball fans across the state.
Throughout the years there have been great moments with huge victories and national individual rankings. There were also times where Shaw struggled, he did not have the man power alongside him, and rankings dropped. At times there were rumors of transfers. He stuck it out and is glad he did.
"It was hard. There were struggles and times I wanted to transfer, but I stuck it out. I am happy I stayed here all four years."
Shaw certainly has the fire power beside him now as DLS is one of the most talented teams in the state of Illinois. Shaw is once again playing alongside friend and sweet shooter Dre Henley after one year at Brehm Prep.
They also feature a trio of sophomores that all rank in the top 10 in the state in guards Alvin Ellis and Jaylon Tate plus forward Alex Foster. With those five on the floor together, they boast a lineup of five Division I recruits.
When it came to a college decision, Shaw sure took Illini fans through a roller coaster ride. He was the guy the staff and fans identified at a young age they wanted to go all out for in the class of 2011. Just like his career on the floor, there were times Illinois felt confident he would represent his home state, and other times where it seemed like he was slipping through their fingers.
Bruce Weber and Jerrance Howard put hundreds of hours into his recruitment. He would not make a decision until just before his senior season. This meant four years of recruiting the talented forward and hoping he would stay in state. Many schools came in and out of his recruitment, but in the end it was DePaul, Marquette, West Virginia, and Illinois.
The analysts were split. DePaul made a late push and would battle Illinois for him to stay home, while West Virginia and Marquette made great pitches in the attempt for Shaw's services. To tell the truth, no one really knew for sure where he was going until a few days before his announcement. Then he made it official. It was Illinois. Howard and Weber got their man! At the end of the day, Shaw couldn't leave.
"There is nothing like that hometown love."
Another aspect that really drew Shaw to Illinois was the rabid fan base and atmosphere in Assembly Hall on game day.
"It is crazy. The atmosphere was one of the main reasons I picked to come to Illinois."
The long-lasting relationship the staff built with Shaw was another key reason he will be wearing orange and blue. He feels they are more than just coaches.
"I am really close with everybody. We are like family already. I can't wait to get down there and be a part of it."
Shaw knows the work is just beginning for him. He is excited to get to Champaign, get in the gym, and start meshing with his teammates.
"When I go there, I'm going to work hard and help the team. We have a good group there."
Working hard has been something Shaw has done throughout his career. He has done this on the court and in the weight room. The forward has morphed his body into a strong physical force that can bang down low. At an early age, he was a finesse forward that got the job done with skills and floated on the perimeter.
He would rather shoot jumpers and drive from the wing than dominate in the paint. The second half of his career in high school, he has developed into a mauler on the interior with a solid back-to-the-basket game. He shows good footwork and moves in the paint. Shaw does not shy away from contact.
The senior still has perimeter abilities but has found a way to use it as a compliment to his perimeter game rather than his primary threat. He can step out and hit a jump shot with range that reaches to the three point line. His handle is pretty good and will be a monster in the pick-and-roll game.
Shaw rebounds at a high level by using good boxing-out techniques and toughness. Defensively he holds his own against opposing power forwards by using his strength and smarts. He has the ability to block the occasional shot too.
It seems like Shaw comes to Illinois at the perfect time. He brings exactly what the Illini need in toughness and a low post presence for a team that is losing its two starting front court players. Shaw also fits in well with this recruiting class and compliments big man Nnanna Egwu.
This class comes into Illinois by some people's opinions as the best class in quite some time. The big man understands expectations are there.
"Everyone is expecting us to do big things. We have to come in right away, put in work and get better."
The forward is even playing the role of recruiter for the staff that invested so much time in him. Illinois has shown interest in all three of Shaw's sophomore teammates. He says he is going to talk with them but knows they will have to make their own decisions.
"Yeah I am talking to them, but I'm letting them do their own thing. They are going to follow their hearts like I did. I wish them the best of luck."
The must-get recruit is excited to be part of the Illinois basketball program and wants to be on the team that brings them back to national prominence. What Shaw brings to the table is toughness, tenacity, and a hunger to win and win big.
"I am going to always play hard and do whatever it takes to win. Whatever it takes!"