Nearly three years ago, on a warm summer evening, Landry Shamet grabbed a basketball from his bedroom, marched out the front door of his apartment and walked to the complex’s lone basketball goal. As the street lights shined down on him, he cycled through a parade of jump shots, dribbling exercises and moves on defenders that existed only in imagination.
On this particular occasion, he concluded the regimen by throwing down a one-handed slam. To this day, he remembers the goal shaking in its aftermath.
It was the first dunk of his life.
With nobody present to witness the feat from the then-Park Hill High School freshman, he ran home to call his AAU basketball coach, Darin Mason.
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“The only thing about it that surprised me,” Mason said, “is that he called to brag about it. He doesn’t brag about anything he does.”
At that moment, Shamet would later say, “I felt like I was going to make it — like I could do anything,” a projection that eventually came to fruition last November when he signed to play in college at Wichita State.
But it took him another two years to prove it to everyone else.
When Shamet was a freshman and sophomore, his phone wasn’t exactly blowing up with Division-I college coaches putting on the full-court recruiting press. He was even told that certain schools were not interested in him.
So how did an under-recruited, overlooked player turn into one of the most prominent seniors in Kansas City only two years later?
Still flying under the major-college radar, Shamet traveled early last season to Blue Springs South, where a bevy of college recruiters were on-hand to watch Jaguars post player Kevin Puryear, an eventual Missouri signee. As the game progressed — resulting in a 68-65 Park Hill upset — the college coaches fell in love with the lanky, 6-4 point guard Shamet.
“I wasn’t at the game, but I started getting phone calls from all over the country. I couldn’t figure out what was going on,” Mason said. “As it turns out, Landry had gone off, and all these coaches suddenly wanted to know who Landry Shamet was.
“They called it his coming-out party. We laughed about that.”
Shamet eventually opted for Wichita State and signed with the program on Nov. 12, three weeks before his senior season began.
Why Wichita State? He likes the underdog story. On a smaller scale, he is the underdog story.
He grew up in a single-parent home with his mom. Melanie Shamet was never able to connect with the father to inform him of their newborn son.
Landry taught himself how to dribble a basketball. He learned how to shoot one on his own, too.
When he was a fourth-grader, he opted for the AAU program with perhaps a less storied past than the other options, and he moved into a Park Hill district that has never won a state championship.
As kids, friends gave him a hard time for his high waist and long limbs. There were scouts who said his body was too awkwardly shaped to be a Division I player.
He still doesn’t consider himself a flashy player — a 6-4 point guard’s ability to dunk, though, has caused Park Hill coach David Garrison to “dust off the playbook” — but Shamet is certainly an efficient one. Aside from leading the 11-2 Trojans in scoring (18 points per game), Shamet also leads the team in rebounds (6.0), steals (1.7) and blocks (1.6) per game.
“More than any player I’ve ever coached, he’s a kid who truly makes everyone around him better,” said Garrison, in his eighth year with the Trojans. “He does so many little things that go unnoticed — I think that’s why you don’t hear more about him. Not everything he does amazes you, but it helps your team win.”
The finished product is a player who is ranked as the 88th best high school senior on Rivals.com.
Not high enough?
“And the end of the day, I’m always going to feel under-valued as a player. That’s just how I am,” Shamet said. “I can look at player rankings and see someone ahead of me and say, ‘Man, I can go kick his (butt) right now.’ But at the end of the day, you have to perform. That’s motivating to me.”
Mom provides the bulk of that motivation, Shamet says.
Melanie earned a volleyball scholarship to Boise State, but she lasted less than two years there before returning home without a degree. It’s a regret. One from which she hopes her son can learn.
Her name appears on the Park Hill wall of fame for her all-state volleyball selection. Shamet passes the wall on his way to the gym, rarely skipping the chance to stop and peek at it.
“It’s a reminder to me of why I work so hard to get to the next level,” Shamet said. “I’ve got some big shoes to fill.”
Can he get there?