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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Beau Shay- Leader in ACC

Most of us when we were young had our pretend games in the driveway. We shot and pretended we were playing for UCLA, North Carolina, Duke, etc. When we were ten years old, we were sure it was a dream that would come true.

"All dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."  Walt Disney

For most of us reality sets in at some point, and we begin to realize we aren't quite tall enough, we aren't quite quick enough, or we just don't shoot well enough to live the dream of playing big time college basketball.

"I tell people I'm too stupid to know what's impossible. I have ridiculously large dreams, and half the time they come true."  Debi Thomas

We have all seen the inspirational moveis about the player who overcame all odds and successfully made it at a level no one thought was possible. While many of the stories may be inspirational and bring a tear to our eye, we aren't sure how much of the story is fiction and how much is real.

"So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."  Christopher Reeves

Beau Shay is the story of a boy who had a dream in the driveway of playing big time basketball in the ACC. I am sure at many points different people must have told him it was time to move onto a more realistic dream. Beau had the courage to keep the dream even though the chance of reaching it was very small. He was 5'10", it was not a realistic dream.

As you will see in this Q & A, Beau never gave up the dream, worked and made it as a walk on at Clemson University. Just making it as a walk-on at an ACC school in basketball is enough to make a good story. But the story does not end there. Beau was not just on the team, by the time he was a senior he was a team leader. He was a coach's dream-- he worked harder in practice than anyone on the team, and in the locker room he was the one who stood up and challenged the team when they needed to be challenged. In short, he didn't just make the team-- he was the leader of an ACC basketball team!

You grew up playing everything- baseball, basketball, football-- what was your favorite sport growing up?
My favorite sport was basketball with football being a close second.

Soph year you were on the varsity team that took second in state in '98. What were the biggest challenges for you that year? What were the moments you will never forget from that year?
The biggest challenge for me was to make myself into a solid contributor for the team. I felt in the summer that  I could make the team, but I wanted playing time. So, I worked my butt off in the summer with the goal to be a factor on that team and it paid off.
First moment that I will never forget is beating Maine West in the semifinals and moving on to play for the State Championship. The second moment I will never forget is the Championship game with about 15 seconds to go. We were only down one and Whitney Young was inbounding the ball full length. We got beat over the top for a dunk, came down and missed a three and then lost by five. I truly feel that if we had made Cordell Henry (was bad at the foul line) catch the ball and make free throws, we may have won that game.

Both older brothers were athletes and obviously that had an impact on you. How would you describe your relationship with Jason and Zach in terms of your sports development- tough love guys or pat on the back guys?
I had Jason as a my Freshman assistant coach and we certainly had our battles that year, but he went on later in the summer to take me into the gym every day that summer to workout. He was relentless on me and that enabled me to be a contributor on the '98 team. A quick story about how Zach liked to teach. We had just lost to Sterling ('00) at Thiel and Zach was back in Galesburg for the game. I did not talk to him after the game, but he came home later that night and woke me up from bed. He then proceeded to rip into me about how I played for a while and then asked me if I was that kind of player he saw that night. Needless to say, both of them are tough love guys.

I am sure in sports people told you were too short to do things. Did this serve as a motivation for you?
Being told I was too short truly never bothered me. I also felt that I could play and keep up with anyone. I probably had to work a little bit harder than some taller players, but I felt could hold my own.

What was the best class you had at GHS?
Tie: Latin with Mrs. Buck and Calculus with Mr. Landon

How in the world did you pick Clemson to go to?
I know Galesburg is in Big Ten country and that my two brothers went to Iowa, but I always wanted to play basketball in the ACC. The ACC was and still is the best basketball conference in the nation (see 5 championships in the last 10 years). So, I had sent letters and film to a few schools in the ACC. The two most interested schools were Florida State and Clemson. I was given about the same odds by both staffs on being able to make the team. After discussing it with my parents, it honestly came down to Clemson being known as a better academic university.

Describe what it was like as a walk on. How did you get set up to try out? How many tried out? Was it questionable if you would make it?
Being a walk-on at Clemson was great. Unlike many of colleges, Clemson only had a total of fifteen guys on the team (13 scholarship and 2 walk-ons). A lot of schools will have a "walk-on team" where a walk on will only dress a certain number of games and only get some of the perks of being on the team. But, I was treated just like the scholarship players during practice and I received all the perks of being on the team with clothing and tournament gifts etc.
To prepare for the tryout my Freshman year I did a lot of work in the rec center on my own. I kept myself in in really good shape and lifted weights a lot more than I usually did. There were a little over 100 guys that tried out for the team. It was a two session tryout where after the morning session they cut all but ten people. After the second session, they called the two walk-ons that made the team later that night. I felt that I had a great chance to make it as I had been in contact with the staff over the fall and had played with the players a few times during their workouts. Still, I was not sure until I got the call. I did not have to try out again after my Freshman year.

What did you see your role on the Clemson team? How did you approach things?
My role at Clemson was plain and simply to make sure that the 7-10 guys that would be on the floor would be as prepared as possible for the other team. I felt that I was a semi-coach and needed to know the scouting report better than anyone else. I also tried to give the guys the best look in practice so they knew what to expect come game time. It should be said that I went in every day to compete to get a chance to play, but it was also very important for me to understand my role. You have to have a different mind set when you are one the last players on the team. I know it is a cliche, but I treated every practice like it was my game and I lived for the days when us subs gave it to the starters.

I remember reading an article on you before your senior nite/day game in which they talked about your role as a leader on the team at Clemson. How do you go from a walk-on to become someone considered as a team leader? 
I feel that I gained the respect from most of the players because of how hard I busted my butt against them. I also was respected by my coaches, so I was able be very vocal at times and get on my teammates a little harder my junior and senior years than some others players. I just kind of grew into that role as we had a large Freshman class my first year, but only one other teammate and I played for Clemson all four years (the rest transferred for various reasons). I think a lot of the underclassmen respected me for that as well.

Obviously it had to be a thrill to play in the ACC. Any particular memories that standout for you? Is it true you always tired to slow up when you shook hands with the opposing coach figuring you might be on TV then?
Three memories quickly come to mind. First, would be when we beat #1 North Carolina at Clemson on Feb 18, 2001. Second, would be when I started and hit a jump shot against Georgia Tech on Senior Night. Last, would be when I hit a three at the Dean Dome, a place that I always dreamed about playing when I was growing up. It is sad, but true that I tried to slow up and take as long as possible to shake the opposing coach's hand to get on TV.

You have always been a great student. How did you manage to succeed at a high level academically and athletically at college?
The most important thing that you have to learn in college is time management. I was able to enjoy college, do well academically, and play basketball all because of time management. You can find time to do all of the things that you want during college, but you have give the same amount of time to the academic part as the athletics. I found time for both and made it work.
It is interesting this past summer when the girls team was at the University of Tennessee camp, brother Jason talked to the varsity girls. He was encouraging them to work hard in school. Jason's comment was, "My brother Beau competed as hard in the classroom as he did on the court."

What are you doing now and what are your future plans?
I am currently in my last year of a podiatry surgical residency in New Jersey. My wife and I are will be moving back to the Midwest to get closer to family. We don't know where yet as we are looking at the three offers that have been made to me, but it will be within driving distance for our parents.

You married  Jennifer Youngblood.  She had a great basketball career at RI. Are either of you trash talkers about the other's career?
Jen and I are huge trash talkers to each other. I like to get on her about never beating Galesburg in her high school career (thanks Coach and my fellow classmates). In all honesty, she has me beat by a wide margin. She set multiple records at Northern Illinois and then played two years of professional basketball overseas, but I still like to talk trash.

With your brothers in coaching, do you ever miss not being in coaching?
I love what I do and will enjoy it for many years to come, but I do miss sports often. I always heard from the "old timers" that they missed the comradery between teammates. This is so very true and it has hit me like it does almost everyone else. I miss team atmosphere, but I especially miss the competition, preparation, and strategy that it takes to beat someone else. I try to find other ways as much as I can to get that competition, but nothing can compare to sports.

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