- Associated Press - Sunday, November 27, 2016

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - When Kimani Shotwell was a young man, he heeded the words of Horace Greeley and went west. Way west.

“If he went any further, he’d be in Russia,” laughed Clay Smythe, who helped mentor Shotwell when he was in high school at Memphis University School.

Last Monday, Shotwell’s journey of self-discovery had him back on familiar grounds. Shotwell - who now coaches British Columbia Christian Academy - brought his team to Ross Lynn Arena Monday to face the Owls. MUS spoiled the fun though, defeating the taller Panthers, 61-57.

From Pershing Avenue in Binghamton to coaching of one of Canada’s top basketball schools, you could say Shotwell has found himself.

“I remember when my AAU coach Mike Poindexter was driving me to the airport in Nashville (for his first trip to the Northwest),” he said. “He said to me ‘this is a chapter that’s going to change your life.’ And now, what, seven or eight years later, he was right.”

Shotwell, 29, first struck out on his own after graduating from Central, where he transferred for his senior year after playing basketball at MUS under legendary coach Jerry Peters. He went to junior college in Oklahoma before playing collegiately at Alaska-Fairbanks.

When knee problems cut his playing career short, he decided to go into coaching. And he decided to do it miles from family and friends back home.

“My friends were like ‘you’re nuts,’” he said. “No one knew anything about Alaska. But I’ve always been independent. I wanted to kind of figure out who I was and I have a big family here. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that unless I went to a place where I completely had no connections.

“I just wanted to move in a different direction … (but) it was a complete shot in the dark.”

Said Smythe, who is the principal of the lower school at MUS, “I’m so proud. He’s forged his way into a signature job at a signature school with significant backing. He wasn’t the best player … but he always had the eye of the tiger. And he was always a go-getter, a big-vision kind of guy.”

Shotwell’s first coaching job was at West Valley High in Fairbanks, where he guided the Wolfpack to consecutive fourth-place finishes in Alaska’s 4A state tournament. From there, he moved to Eagle River Christian in Anchorage.

He was familiar with British Columbia Baptist after the team had played in a tournament at Eagle River and when an opening came up this past offseason, he was happy to make another move to BCCB, a boarding school that’s home to about 325 students.

“We do travel quite a bit,” he said. “We have a lot of support from our school.”

Like Vancouver, the city in which it’s based, Shotwell’s team is a real melting pot. He has players on the roster from Serbia, Croatia, Poland, Turkey, Nigeria and the Bahamas, along with Canadians and a guard from New Orleans.

Two of his players, 6-5 point guard Keenan Dowell and 6-5 guard John Maxmillion, are drawing significant recruiting interest. Like most coaches, Shotwell is quick to point out his team’s youth. But they’re also extremely tall, with 11 players on the roster listed at 6-5 and above.

More importantly than wins and losses, Shotwell’s homecoming was a chance to show his players the lasting impacts relationships can have.

“When I was doing goofy things, it was these men like Clay, (current Owls coach) Matt Bakke, of course Jerry Peters, (upper school principal) Barry Ray that made a lasting impact,” he said. “And the same for Andre Applewhite at Central. These men are great coaches that loved the game.”

The trip also served as a cultural introduction for Shotwell’s players. The coach jokingly said food - specifically barbecue - was the motivating factor for the trip. And the Panthers got a first-hand introduction at the city’s high school basketball community that helped shape Shotwell.

“(Being from Memphis) gave him instant street cred when he got the job,” said Smythe. “He’s got Memphis basketball in his genes.”

Just goes to show, you can take the kid out of the city …

___

Information from: The Commercial Appeal, https://www.commercialappeal.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide