The college basketball season starts in earnest for the Washington Huskies who begin play in the Pac-12 with Thursday’s 5 p.m. at Arizona State.
And we advance the UW-ASU game with a feature on former Kentridge High product Shaquielle McKissic who really has an amazing story of faith, perseverance and triumph. The Sun Devils guard talks openly and candidly about his attempted burglary conviction, spending three months in jail, living with an abusive stepfather, being homeless and losing his best friend to gun violence.
Here’s a few quotes from McKissic during an interview earlier this week.
(On playing at Arizona State) “It’s been everything and more. From what I expected to when I got out here it’s kind of different. Now it’s like how much I’ve learned. It’s like day and night. Out of all of the basketball that I know right now, I would say that 80 percent came in these 2-3 months. Just how to play basketball. Not just being out there, but becoming a smarter basketball player. That’s what I enjoy. I love the film break down. I love talking to coaches and just eating up that information.”
(Have you felt the impact your story has had on people?) “Definitely. A lot of kids follow me on Twitter and Instagram. They leave me comments. They DM me on Twitter. A lot of friends from my juco last year, they always contact me for advise and how to get through stuff. I just always let them know you just got to let everything have its day. If you’re having a bad day, let that bad day have it’s bad day. But the next day, you move forward. It’s never over. You can’t look at anything in a negative way. You have to take the approach that you’re going to do it no matter what. Like people ask me this is your final year of college ball and what if you get injured. My response to that is if I get injured, I heal up and I’m back at it. I’m working hard.”
(If you had a chance to talk to your younger self, what would you say?) “Wow. Good question. Stop. Think. And then think about it some more. Anytime I hear somebody say they’re about to do something stupid, I just really plead with them like from the heart. It’s not worth it. Man, I feel like the feeling that I had back in elementary and middle school when they would always say only a handful of guys are going to play college ball and even a smaller percentage are going to go to the pros. But always in my mind, I had it. There is no other option. This is what I’m going to do. I don’t care whatever happens, this is what I’m going to do it. When I was homeless, in my mind was this is what I’m going to do. When I was going from house to house, it was like this is what I’m going to do. When I was in my jail cell, I was like no matter what this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to do it. I had the opportunity a few time and I let it slip by. A lot of things happened. When I finally got that chance, I made the most of it. But I wouldn’t change a thing looking back on it. I really can’t say I would. I feel like all of those things that happened, it makde me into the person I am today and I wouldn’t want to change that. It gave me that grit or that toughness on the court or that I can do anything attitude. Because it’s like I’ve done the impossible, according to a lot of people.”
(You say basketball was so important to you, then why commit the burglary?) “It was just a poor decision. Looking back on it right now, I see younger guys like me and ask why would they do that? But by the time I get out that sentence, it hits me like really. You were young and immature. It might have been getting attention. I wanted what everybody else had. But at the end of the day, I really don’t have a legitimate answer. I can say that it definitely got me here so I don’t know if that was God’s way of saying this is how I’m going to make you the player that you are. It definitely sticks with me every time I hit the game. In games, before tip off, it just all rushes through my mind all at once. It’s kind of an euphoric feeling.”
(How long were you homeless?) “I was staying at an apartment right across from Edmonds Community College, but my name wasn’t on the lease and they found out. They ran a background check and then they said I can’t even be on the property at all. At that point I didn’t have anywhere to go. It was my friend who I committed the crime with so we both had to go. Luckily he a car, parents’ car that we were using. That’s right when we were taking classes. So basically I would have to get on a laptop and go to a parking lot with Wi-Fi. I studied, took test and did homework in the car. We’d go to 24 Hour Fitness from the time it opened until we were dead exhausted because we did not want to go back into that car. That was almost like jail, but it wasn’t that intense because we got to eat whatever we wanted to. That was tough. It was very uncomfortable having to sleep in the car every night, but sometimes you got to do what you got to do. When people ask me, are you OK with sleeping on the floor I tell them you don’t even know the half of it. That’s OK with me. I’ll sleep on the floor in the living room.”
(How long were you living like that?) “We were sleeping out of the car for about three weeks to a month. I wasn’t too bad. I was staying from home to home. But I never had a bed that was my bed ever since my mom left. I was always sleeping in somebody’s lving room or on the floor. I never had a place where it was my own room or any privacy like that. I always had to follow somebody else’s rules. So once I finally go that room at Edmonds, I had to go all out. I put posters on the wall. I’m like these white walls remind me too much of jail. I can not do that.”
(Tell me about Devin.) “After the end of my first year, one of my close friends got murdered, Devin Topps at a house party on Halloween. I can remember that night vividly. I called my mom. She was just so shocked. I just cried on the phone with her for a couple of hours. I didn’t know what to do at that point, I was just so lost. I just bound up all of that energy and I was like OK I’m going to do something with my life. If I get the opportunity, I’m going to do it for the both of us. Everybody always ask why I wear 40 and that’s the reason. In high school, we played varsity together and that was his number at Kentridge. So that’s why I take that everywhere with me.”
(You have a very unique relationship with time. You’ve been forced to wait for two years and now its seems like you’re in a resurrect your basketball career.) “Two years ago met Jamal Crawford. We exchanged numbers. We’ve talked here and there. And he just asked me as we were hooping at LA Fitness together how old are you? At that time I was 22 about to turn 23. He was like oh you’re a pup. That kind of just rocked me. That made me more patient. I know I have to work hard as far as I only got one year at ASU and I got to try to make the best of it. But as far as in life, if it didn’t work out at ASU, I tie my shoes again and I choose the next route. Water flowing down stream will find any crack to get through. It’s no end to it. It will always find a way to get to its destination. That’s definitely how I look at everything. I see so many impatient people and it’s just like, patience is such a virtue. I’ve always stuck with that and that’s kept me at ease. I’ve done all of this, but man is this the end? I don’t know. But I do know I’ve created the mindset that nothing will stop me. Ever. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.”
THURSDAY MORNING LINKS:
— Bud Withers tips things off with a team-by-team look and a predicted order of finish in the race for the conference crown. (Hint: It’s not good news for Washington fans.)
— A basketball road trip to the state of Arizona is probably the toughest in the conference considering Arizona State looks as if it will vie for a NCAA tournament berth and the No. 1 Wildcats are national title contenders.
— Despite ASU’s early success, Pac-12 analyst Don MacLean tells the Arizona Republic he believes the Sun Devils are still in the second-tier in the conference behind Arizona, Oregon and Colorado.
— Doug Haller at the Arizona Republic takes a look back at the Pac-12 nonconference season, previews the conference MVP race and updates his power rankings.
— Arizona is enters Pac-12 play as a big red and blue pinata. Teams are going to take whacks at the Wildcats hoping to hand them their first loss and walk away with the spoils – i.e. RPI ratings – that go with knocking off the No. 1 team in the country.
— Eric Moreland’s 14-game suspension never made sense when Oregon State announced the punishment last summer. Why 14 games? No sense having a 6-10 forward with NBA potential on the bench for the start of Pac-12 season after he sat out the nonconference season. So it’s hardly a surprise the Beavers cut his suspension short and he’s eligible to play in tonight’s league opener at No. 20 Colorado.
— Colorado coach Tad Boyle said the X-factor for the Buffaloes this season is a young, consistent bench.
— CU is destroying opponents on the glass.
— Entering its third season in the Pac-12, Colorado has quickly established itself as one of the league’s stalwarts.
— Utah’s third Pac-12 campaign gets off to a tough start.
— Connor Letourneau at the Oregonian gives a team-by-team look at the Pac-12 and identifies the contenders and pretenders.
— And here’s another Pac-12 season advance.