When your father is a professional athlete, there are bound to be big expectations on his kids. When your father is a Hall of Famer, those expectations grow exponentially. And that was the situation Dolomiti Energia Trento guard Shavon Shields was born into.
His father, Will Shields, played 14 seasons of professional football as an offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, was named to 12 straight NFL Pro Bowls (the equivalent of the all-star game) and chosen to the All-Pro team seven times. Will Shields was inducted to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2015. And his son Shavon had a front row seat for much of it. “I was around football as a kid. I would go to practice and be in the locker rooms sometimes after games,” Shavon Shields said.
The genes of his parents – Shavon’s mother Senia played club soccer in college – gave Shavon athletic potential from a young age. But he used that prowess to go in a different direction. “I played basketball my whole life. It’s been my favorite sport as long as I can remember,” he said.
As many expected, Shields gave American football a try. “I played football for two years in seventh and eighth grade,” Shields said. “I decided I preferred basketball.”
In fact, in some ways, it was his father’s greatness that made football less fun for a young Shavon. “I went out for the team in seventh grade and because of my dad, they put me on the offensive line. I was one of the smaller guys on the team, so I didn’t have much fun. And then I went out the next year and finally got to play the position I wanted to, wide receiver, but they never threw the ball to me, so I said, ‘Dad, I’m done with this.’ “
With his focus solely on basketball, Shields’s stock began to rise. He developed into one of the top high school players in the Kansas City area and was highly recruited for college. Ultimately, he decided to attend his parents’ alma mater, the University of Nebraska.
Shields did follow in his father’s footsteps as far as his college choice and said that he tries to help where he can, but Will Shields gives his son a lot of independence. “He has advice and stuff, especially with team dynamics. Things like that, how to handle certain situations. But he’s pretty hands off with everything. He never pushed me to play football. He never pushed me to do certain things. He let me be my own person with everything. So that was really nice.”
Though Senia Shields attended college in the heart of Midwestern America, she grew up in Denmark. “She was actually a high school exchange student in Curtis, Nebraska, and she came back to the States for college,” Shields said. “When she came back, she met my dad and the rest is history, I guess.”
As a child, the Shields went to Denmark for a week weeks to visit Senia’s family almost every summer. She also tried to speak to her children in Danish a little bit. So when Shavon had an opportunity to represent Denmark in basketball, he went for it. After his freshman year at college, Shields flew to Denmark and played for its U20 at the 2013 Nordic Championship in Finland. He averaged 13.3 points in wins over Sweden, Finland and Estonia to win the tournament.
“I remember it as a really good experience. It was in the summer time. I was kind of just there to play basketball. I got to see my grandparents and my uncle,” Shields said. “I remember going to Finland and playing against a couple of Nordic teams. It was fun.”
That experience helped Shields take a big step forward for his sophomore season with the Cornhuskers, which he helped reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998 with 12.8 points and a team-high 5.8 rebounds in 30 games. As he continued to get excel on the court, Shields also became an exemplary student. He was chosen to the Academic All-American first team after the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons and was the first Nebraska player to earn that honor.
Shields got another chance to experience European basketball while in college when Nebraska went on a tour of Spain prior to his senior season. By the end of his career at Nebraska, Shields was one of only five players in school history with 1,500 points and 600 rebounds. He also received several off-court honors, including the Nebraska Student-Athlete HERO Leadership Award in 2014, the 2014 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award and the 2016 Nebraska Big Ten Medal of Honor.
After graduating with a degree in biological sciences in May 2016, Shields was back to Europe, this time a professional basketball player. His first stop was Germany, where he signed with Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt. Shields averaged 14.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in the German League as a rookie, but said one of his highlights was a Fiba Champions League game in Denmark. When Fraport visited Bakken Bears, Shields’s grandfather and uncle came to the game. “It was the first time my uncle had seen me play,” Shields noted. It was an overall pleasant experience with a Danish television station doing a story on Shields, who knew a few Bakken players from the Danish national team.
When the Skyliners’ season ended, Shields signed with Trento in time for the Italian League playoffs. Despite his late arrival, Shields became an instant starter and played a significant role in the team’s 4-1 victory over top-seed EA7 Emporio Armani Milan in the playoff semifinals. He averaged 10.1 points and 3.3 rebounds in 18 appearances with Trento and happily agreed to remain with the club and signed an extension for an additional two seasons over the summer.
And when summer comes, Shields returns to his parents’ home in a Kansas City suburb, where he can relax and review his season with anther legendary athlete. And then comes another perk of being Will Shields’s son. His dad opened the 68 Inside Sports facility a few years ago. “He owns a fitness club since he retired, so I got to spend quite a bit of time there. It’s been a big help to have access to a gym when I’m back home.”
Regardless of the advantages Shields has had thanks to his parents, he’s put in all the hard work to be a big-time player on the court. Shields’ numbers this year do not tell the story of his impact; he twisted his ankle less than three minutes into his team’s Round 4 loss at Herbalife Gran Canaria. He was forced to sit out the Round 5 victory over ratiopharm Ulm, too. But Shields expects to be back on the court in a matter of days as he continues adding to the worthy legacy the Shields name carries.