Photo courtesy of ZagsBlog.
By David Cordova
Many times, there are players that go through a whirlwind of things in high school. There’s a multitude of things that cause someone to fall off-track with their academics. And then when their chances, or dreams, of playing Division I basketball start to fade, there’s a couple of alternatives.
Some people may think of prep school, which means spending one more year in high school, which is called a post-grad year, for athletic refinement. Or better yet, there’s also the JUCO route, where players spend two years at a community college, getting prepared physically and academically. Most of the time, the junior college route can be more effective for a player than prep school, being that it gives them a faster chance at getting the first of two degrees and also a chance to get acclimated to the rigors of collegiate competition.
Shakur Juiston was one player that took advantage of the opportunity that the JUCO route gave him and that is why he is now about to showcase his talents at the Division I level.
“Just playing hard, playing for your team, you know,” said Juiston when asked what motivates him to be successful in the game of basketball. “You have to play for your team, you can’t just play for yourself, you have to be more motivated. Just go out there and get it.”
The 6-foot-7 Juiston gets his passion and toughness from growing up in the hard environment of Newark, NJ. “I mean, it’s nothing like anywhere else,” he replied when asked about when asked about what it was like being from a place that many call, Brick City. “There’s a ghetto like anywhere else. I’m not just going to single out where I’m from, but I mean, I put on for my city.”
In high school, Juiston first started out at Irvington High School in Irvington, NJ, where he averaged 10 points per game as a freshman and 13.3 points per game as a sophomore.
Then he transferred to Paterson Eastside for his final two years of high school, where as a junior, he averaged 11.5 points per game and as a senior, averaged 12.5 points per game and led the Ghosts to a 25-7 season and a sectional title.
On the AAU scene, he was a member of the New Jersey Playaz, who won the 2014 Nike EYBL title, on a team that featured former Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe, Duke incoming freshman guard Trevon Duval and Seton Hall sophomore Myles Powell.
“It was a good time, my junior year, we lost in the semis, but senior year, we got it, we won the championship, we got messed over in the [TOC] semis, but it’s cool.” said Juiston about his time at Paterson Eastside.
From there, Juiston went on to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas which is a perennial powerhouse amongst many on the Division I junior college scene. It is so big a place that every year, they host the NJCAA Nationals.
“Hutch was a good JUCO experience. I never thought about going JUCO, but when I got there, it was good coaching and a good community, so I just loved everything about it.” said Juiston of going to Hutchinson.
As a freshman, he averaged 10.9 points and eight rebounds per game. But his sophomore year was one for the ages, when he averaged 17.3 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game for the Blue Dragons, whom finished 35-2 and won the NJCAA national championship. For his efforts, Juiston ended up the NABC National Junior College Player of the Year.
When asked about his tremendous season, he replied, “It was just well-deserved. I worked hard, I fought every game, I just felt it was well-deserved at the end of the day.”
Now that his two years at Hutch had come to a close, it was now time to make a decision. Where would he spend his final two years of college? Due to his phenomenal play at Hutch, he built his stock and became one of the most highly-recruited junior college players out in the country, even fielding offers from schools in the Big 12 Conference such as Kansas and Iowa State.
But on April 26th, he decided to make his commitment to UNLV. “Just the transformation is just lifting, and like working out everyday. I didn’t have that [regimen] in high school. So when I got there [UNLV], I was like, ‘You know what, wake up everyday at 8:00 AM, get some shots up, go lift, go work out,’ I mean, it’s real college life, and I’m ready for it, I’m ready the season.”
All of this he credited, due to doing two years on the JUCO scene at Hutch. “Yeah, JUCO helped me out, and my coaching was good and he really coached me. ‘Cause in high school, I was a little knucklehead, I was arguing too much, so I got there [Hutch], so I tweaked some stuff that needed to be tweaked.”
He comes to a UNLV team that finished in tenth place in the Mountain West Conference with an 11-21 record last season and has a very large recruiting class coming in which includes McDonald’s All-American and five-star prospect Brandon McCoy. But when asked what he thinks he’ll bring to the Runnin’ Rebels this coming season, Juiston replied, “Energy, leadership and rebounding.”
Although UNLV struggled last season, with the recruiting class they have coming in, there is bound to be a change for the squad from Las Vegas this season, due in part to help from the kid from a place they call Brick City.
Highlights of Shakur Juiston:
Courtesy of NJ Sports Scene.
Courtesy of New UCA.
Courtesy of The Hutchinson News.
Courtesy of The Hutchinson News.