At 6-foot-10, junior Thomas Shewmake is anything but hard to see, and after playing the last two seasons on the Matador men’s basketball team, he will try to maintain his larger-than-life presence on the court as well.
“My goals for this season are to be dominating on both offense and defense,” Shewmake said.
“You’ve got to give Thomas a lot of credit,” said head coach Bobby Braswell. “He’s really showed his maturity level this offseason, stepping up his dedication.”
“He thought it was going to be easy coming in here,” Braswell said. “When he redshirted his freshman year, he kept telling guys he was going to come in, start, and be dominating. He got a rude awakening last season and the previous – it was a lot harder than he expected.”
Despite a couple of good games at the Matadome against CSU Fullerton and UC Riverside, Shewmake’s stats dropped off last season.
“We’ve always challenged him to step up his dedication, and he’s answered the call this offseason,” Braswell said. “He got himself in the best condition since he’s been here; working hard in the weight room and on his conditioning. He lost 30 pounds and is executing a lot better.”
Shewmake grew up in Cathedral City, which is “a small desert city out by Palm Springs,” as Shewmake worded it.
Growing up he played football and basketball for fun and ran track in middle school, but it was not until the seventh grade that he was introduced to competitive basketball by his physical education coach, which was the first time he had played organized ball.
The oldest of three children, Shewmake and his siblings were raised by his grandmother, Carol Dye.
“My parents were young and ran into some bad times,” Shewmake said. “They had a falling out, so when I was eight my grandmother took us in.”
Shewmake is not the only basketball player in his family. His 6-foot-8, 19-year-old brother Steven Shewmake plays basketball for Riverside Community College
Shewmake learned the values of hard work and responsibility at a young age, which helped him on the basketball court and to adjust to living by himself on campus.
“I worked as a courtesy clerk at Stater Bros. when I was 16 and I did some bagging,” Shewmake said. “It was my first real job and (it) opened me up to talking with new people.”
The responsibilities of being the oldest and looking out for his family made his adjustment to living on campus a relatively smooth transition. The responsibilities that most new college students dealt with such as: cooking, cleaning, studying, and waking up for class and practice on time, were not issues for him.
“Being the oldest, I had to do all that growing up.” Shewmake said.
Shewmake attended Cathedral City High School, where he quickly made a name for himself.
“Even though I was taller than most kids, I (still) had a three inch growth spurt in the spring and summer, between eighth and ninth grade.”
As a result, he started playing varsity his freshman year, leading his team to the Desert Valley League division title three out of his first four years there.
“The competition was definitely less challenging and a whole lot easier,” he said. “Sometimes I went up against guys 6’7″ or 6’8″ but most of them were only 6-foot-5.”
Shewmake credits his high school coach, Rob Hamner, for stepping up his intensity and preparing him for basketball at the college level.
“Coach yelled a lot and in my last year-and-a-half he was tough on me to help make the transition to college easier,” Shewmake said.
Despite originally playing basketball because of his size, he is now truly in love with the game.
“First it was because I was so big, and coaches wanted a big player. Later I fell in love with the game, and now it makes up who I am,” he said.
Shewmake was recruited by many Division I schools including: Pepperdine, Utah State and Big West Conference rival Pacific. However, Shewmake decided he wanted to become a Matador.
“I chose CSUN mainly because of the coaching staff, and I meshed well with the players,” he said. “Plus it was far enough from home for my independence, but not too far if I wanted to go for a visit.”
Shewmake, a Leisure Studies and Recreation major, lists his favorite college class as Philosophy.
“It made me think and opened me to new ideas,” he said.
When it comes to his least desirable classes, he laughed, “any class that starts at 8 a.m. – and math classes.”
Realistically, Shewmake’s future goals are to play professional basketball in either the NBA or overseas, in Europe, South America or Asia.
Like many college students, when he is not practicing or studying, he likes to spend his free time listening to music, hanging out with friends, playing video games and going to clubs. He also is fond of children.
“One thing most people don’t know about me is that I have a soft spot for kids,” Shewmake said. “I like working and playing with them. I’m really just a big kid myself.”
Proof of that can be found on his birthday, which is Apr. 1, April Fools day.
“I’ve been able to play jokes on people about whether or not it’s my birthday,” he said. “People don’t believe me because it’s April Fool’s day.”
When Shewmake moved on campus, he dormed with former teammates, Ian Boylan and Joseph Frazier, who took him under their wing and helped him adapt in his first years at CSUN. Both players have since graduated and Shewmake now lives by himself in a studio apartment off campus.
While he says he is not a deeply religious person, Shewmake is a Christian and sometimes he and fellow teammates go to the Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch with Coach Braswell.
Despite his hard work this offseason, Shewmake aggravated his knee in practice two weeks ago, but tests revealed it was only a sprain and he will miss four weeks.
“I slipped on some water or sweat during practice,” Shewmake said.
Although it is a setback, Shewmake is optimistic about the upcoming season, his role in it and has high expectations for this years team.
“My goals are to win league outright, win the conference tournament and (get) a NCAA Tournament bid, come March,” he said.
Shewmake said making the Big West Tournament finals his freshman year was his collegiate high point.
“We came in strong and made it to the finals, but lost,” Shewmake said.
Hopefully with his revamped work ethic and dedication, Shewmake’s expectations for himself and the team can become a reality in the 2005-06 season.
Shabazz Williams can be reached at email@example.com.