Mike Shaw was ranked in the top five nationally as a freshman. He had grown to 6'-8" by then, so only his good qualities were noticed. As he aged and more people evaluated him, his imperfections became more apparent to the experts and his ranking dropped accordingly.
Regardless, Shaw continues to make progress despite injuries that have limited his effectiveness. Last fall, he sprained his wrist badly enough he cringed in pain while shaking hands. His Chicago DeLaSalle team needed him, so he played through it.
It is now AAU season, and Shaw is still playing through injuries.
"My wrist still feels a little sore. Even now just a little bit, although it's a lot better."
A junior leader for his high school team, Shaw didn't want to rest it enough to let it heal. As a result, he tended to reinjure it frequently. It may be almost back to normal, but now another physical malady has cropped up.
"I've got it together. I've worked on my strength. I'm gonna play now. My wrist doesn't matter, but now my heel hurts. I have plantar fasciitis in my heels. I had it this season. I'm gonna get through it. I need rest, but I'm gonna keep playing. That's something I can do when I'm not playing."
Despite the problems, Shaw was able to improve his overall game this past winter.
"Yeah, I feel like I was able to bring more to the table when I was out there. Now I'm just trying to work on everything to separate myself from everybody else."
His high school graduated three top guards, so Shaw had to take a leadership role to bring along the youngsters. He led them to an excellent season despite their youth.
"Yeah, they look up to me on and off the court. It's like a family. I'm gonna look out for them the best I can. I'm proud of all of them. I thought we had a good season."
Shaw's goal was to bring the young players along, including freshmen Alex Foster and Jaylon Tate, and help his team have a winning season. In so doing, he agrees the process helped him as well.
"Yeah, I think it did too. I knew I had to step my game up. I'm getting older, and all the guys are looking up to me. In crunch time they're gonna turn to me. As much as I helped them, they helped me just as much."
Some evaluators complain that Shaw doesn't dominate more games with his size and skills. But Shaw isn't a selfish player. Passing is a big part of his game.
"I know to have a good team, you've got to get everybody involved. Everybody's making everybody happy. I've never been a selfish player. I like to get everybody involved. So I'm not so much worried about me. I'm more of a team player."
Shaw's AAU team is the Mac Irvin Fire. Mired in turmoil last summer, Shaw believes there is better chemistry and teamwork this year.
"It's cool now. Yeah, this year is a lot better. This is gonna be a good team this year."
One of his teammates with the Fire is Chicago Orr's Mycheal Henry. The shooting guard is being recruited by Illinois and a number of other schools and has become a work partner with Shaw.
"He's strong, he's shooting the ball, he plays hard. He wants it. I work out with him every day, we have the same trainer. He's hungry, he's trying to make it.
"Basketball wasn't my main priority when I was younger, but then I got with the right people and they got my head straight. Ever since then I've been working hard. We push each other to make each other better. I love playing with Mike. He's a great player."
Many people assume Shaw will play power forward in college. But he agrees with his high school coach Tom White that his skills fit the three spot better.
"I see myself as a three. But as long as I'm out there, I'll play. When I've got a smaller dude on me, I'll post him up. The bigger dudes I'll take outside."
When one visits with Shaw, one discovers an intelligent, thoughtful young man who has more on the ball than just basketball. It is easy to overlook the fact that he is being interviewed to find out what college he may someday attend. The obligatory question about his commitment timetable was asked as an afterthought.
"I don't know. Right now I'm just taking my time, focusing on the AAU circuit. Man, it's coming up soon. There's some schools I'm looking at. But I'm just taking my time with it."
Illinois and numerous other high major programs have been recruiting Shaw since he was a freshman. They are anxious to know his future plans. But wherever he goes, the school that gets him will benefit in ways beyond his skill on a basketball floor.