Heart over height

Elijah Shabazz

The game of basketball is filled with giants. If you watch a college or NBA game, it will be rare to find any player on the court shorter than 6 feet tall. But regardless of height, fans can sense when players don’t have that certain edge and toughness. Many of today’s basketball players may be tall and skilled but lack the necessary grit and passion to progress in their careers. There are over 550,000 high school basketball players in the U.S. and only 3.4 percent will further their careers on the collegiate level. Ja’Ques Shields is a part of that 3.4 percent.

Shields recently committed and signed to Central Carolina Community College. Shields was also the starting point guard on this season’s varsity men’s basketball team at Wakefield High School. He helped lead the Wolverines to a 24-5 record and their first conference championship since 2011. Shields only averaged 3.5 points per game this season, but his impact on the court went beyond his statistics.

“I’m not a scorer, I am a winner,” Shields said. “Anything my team needs me to do, I will do my best to get the job done.”

Shields stands at only 5 foot 3 inches, but his hard-nosed style of play has earned him the respect of many.  As a shorter point guard, Shields understands that he has to work and play harder than everybody else to be taken seriously.

He had tremendous court vision, pesky defense, and was a natural leader and that blew me away

— Wilson

“I have to play with a chip on my shoulder because of my height,” Shields said. “If I don’t, my opponents won’t take me seriously. A part of my goal is to cause havoc for anybody who thinks they can match up against me.”

Garret Stevens is the head coach of the men’s basketball team at Wakefield High. He had the honor of coaching Shields when he was a freshman on junior varsity, and during Shields’ junior and senior seasons on varsity. Stevens was able to see him grow on and off the court. The determination and edge that Shields plays with is evident every time he steps onto the basketball court.

“[Shields] was a part of the main 7 guys that played a lot this year,” Stevens said. “On the court, he was a coach on the floor. Off the court, he got [his schoolwork] done.”

Trent Wilson an assistant coach during Shields’ junior and senior seasons.

“When I first saw Ja’Ques, I thought to myself ‘he must be tough’ because of his size,’ Wilson said. “He had tremendous court vision, pesky defense, and was a natural leader and that blew me away.”

Shields carries a quiet confidence about himself. He is a self-proclaimed ‘gym rat’ and doesn’t show mercy for any opponents. Not even his teammates. For the duration of this past season, junior guard, Brenon Rogers, had the task of guarding Shields every day in practice.

“Ja’Ques is so little but so good,” Rogers said. “ He is one of my closest friends, but on the court, he goes at me as if I were his worst enemy.”

Shields garners motivation from his family. His mom and little brother attended almost every game this past season, but his biggest motivation comes from his deceased grandmother.

“She died when I was 10 years old but I know she is looking over me,” Shields said. “She was my best friend so I take that pain of losing her and use it to my advantage on the court. I’m carrying her spirit with me every time I play.”

Shields was the shortest men’s varsity basketball player in all of Wake County High Schools this past season. With that being said, he is a part of the small group of players who will be playing college basketball next season. Shields already has begun preparing for his freshman year as a college basketball player. He has his eyes set on success and has a message for his collegiate opponents next season.

“I’m going to put on a show next year,” Shields said. “Get ready, I’m coming.”