Mike Shaw burst onto the scene at a young age. Already 6'-8" as a freshman at DeLaSalle, he was ranked among the top five players nationally in his class. According to his high school coach Tom White, it has been difficult for him to adapt to the pressure of that ranking, especially when his team is losing.
"Right now, I think he's taking everything on him. It's got to be me, it's got to be my fault, my loss. I think we've got to fan that out a little bit.
"He wants to do everything. I can't just put him on the block or just put him on the outside. He has perimeter skills and does all these things. He's in the paper and talks to reporters all the time. He can never do anything without notice. I think right now it gets in his head when it's not going well."
Losing their first two games in the State Farm Invitational Holiday Tournament last week was hard on Shaw. Missing three excellent perimeter players from last year's team, Shaw is trying to carry the scoring load while helping the younger players adapt to their new roles. The team needs more practice.
"Right now, it's early in the season," Shaw explains. "We're gonna get better as we get used to playing together. We haven't been playing as many games as everybody else. When we start playing together more, there'll be more spacing and more movement."
Shaw's ranking has dropped since his freshman year. His coach believes Shaw got an unfair rap based on his play during the summer AAU seasons.
"You know, it's that AAU ball. I'm not ripping them, I'm just saying. They play four games in a day, it's no big deal to them. Winning doesn't matter. When he was a freshman and sophomore, he was with all the older kids. He's never played with his own level. I think he's just got to step up and keep doing it."
He fell during DeLaSalle's first game and hurt his wrist. He winces shaking hands, so the wrist pain no doubt contributed to an erratic shooting touch. It was another in a long line of pressures weighing heavily on Shaw as he works to play good ball according to White.
"In the game yesterday, he took a nasty spill and fell hard on his right wrist. The trainer says bad sprain. The only thing he can do is play through it. That's the kind of kid he is. He's playing a lot of left hand right now.
"He says, 'Coach, I'm playing hurt. People will think I'm soft.' With a hand, people don't notice that. The competitor in him is gonna make him step up and do it."
White sees definite progress in Shaw. He thinks highly of his young star.
"He's good to have with the young kids. He's a great role model. He's a gentleman. You might read his emotions sometimes, like 'Oh my God, what are we doing?' But really he's just a young kid trying to get better.
"He's more wise, he's more vocal and is talking to people. He's tough, I think he's tougher than I am with the kids at practice. He makes them work.
"I know I have more mail on my desk for him than any other kid. He's had offers from 20-some schools. He's only a junior right now, but people have been looking at him for years. So I think that process is there. It's a heavy weight on his shoulders. He really cares."
Most observers lament that Shaw doesn't spend more time in the low post where he should be able to dominate. But opponents collapse on him. Without help from his teammates, he must roam the perimeter where his options are greater.
"I lot of people stay inside, so I can't really do anything down low," Shaw explains. "There's no movement inside."
Shaw has excellent fundamental skills for a big man. He can shoot, take people off the dribble, and is a good passer. White believes his college future is on the perimeter.
"I think he's a three man. He can really shoot the ball, but he's 6'-8". People look at me and wonder what the hell he's doing out there. But when he goes outside, he can go to work. On the inside, he's got three guys around him. For some reason, officials just don't call a lot of fouls when he gets the ball inside."
Up to now, Shaw hasn't taken college recruiting seriously. But as a junior, he realizes he must begin to think about his future.
"Yeah, I have to. It's right around the corner. I'm looking for a school I can go play my game, up and down, run the floor. A school that's gonna make me better."
His partial list of schools is impressive.
"Louisville, Michigan State, Florida, Illinois, Cincinnati. There's a bunch of schools."
There were rumors he was ready to commit to Louisville a couple months ago. As of now, he is not ready to finalize anything other than to say he still hopes to be a package deal with friend and AAU teammate Wayne Blackshear.
"I'm still taking my time. I'm not really trying to commit right now. I'm gonna see my options better."