Mike Shaw was considered a national-level recruit as a freshman at Chicago De La Salle Institute. While his rankings slipped somewhat as he got older, his potential is still vast. Illinois enjoyed a recruiting coup in landing him. He is happy with his decision and enjoying being on campus.
"It's a great feeling. The atmosphere, the players, everything. I love it. I feel like I'm at home."
Meeting the media for the first time Thursday, Shaw was asked if being one of four Chicagoans among UI freshmen meant an improved UI image in Chicago. From his perspective, it was always good.
"It's always been the same to me. I've always been an Illinois fan. That's one of the reasons why I chose to come here. They're known for treating everyone like family, playing hard and winning."
Illini upperclassmen have taken the five freshmen under their wings.
"Everyone on the team is pretty close. I think that's what's good about our team. We've got good team chemistry. We talk every day, we hang out every day.
"They help us with our homework, just everything. They're like big brothers on our team. They gave us advice to stay focused and take care of your business, and you'll be cool."
The muscular athlete is working hard to earn a starting spot for the Illini.
"Most definitely. I'll do whatever it takes to help out the team. I love it here. I came to play basketball and get a good education, and that's what I'm gonna do."
Shaw has a variety of skills. He can post up and score with quick moves to the hoop. He can shoot jumpers out to three point range. He can bang the glass for rebounds and putbacks. And he is an effective passer. Versatility is a strength.
"I think I bring something to the table that a lot of 6'-8" players don't bring. I play hard all the time, and I'll do whatever it takes to win."
That latter comment may be his best asset. Shaw is a warrior with a burning desire to win. He was downgraded in high school for not scoring like a superstar, but he sacrifices personal glory for his team.
"Right. I'm a winner. I'd rather win than anything. That's what I came to do."
Shaw is taking two summer classes and appears to be adapting well.
"Right now, I have Animal Science and Human Development. The teachers are good teachers and great persons. In college it's tougher, but I like the schedule now. It's pretty good."
The freshman won't rest until he is the best he can be and his team is a winner.
"I've just got to keep working hard on every aspect of my game. Do what it takes to help out the team and just stay focused."