Next week when The Basketball Tournament comes to Koch Arena, Wichita State fans will enjoy the nostalgia of seeing former Shocker stars from all across the Gregg Marshall era wearing the black and yellow once again.
But there promises to be murmurs in the crowd when Shannon Shorter, a 2011 North Texas graduate and the lone non-Shocker on the 11-player roster, checks in for the Aftershocks for their first game against Iowa United at 8 p.m. Thursday with the game broadcast on ESPN.
So who is that and how did Shorter wind up playing for a Wichita State alumni team?
Shorter, a Houston native, was recruited to the Aftershocks by coaching advisor P.J. Couisnard, a star at WSU from 2003-08 and also a Houston native, as well as Texas native and Aftershocks player J.T. Durley, another WSU star (2006-11).
This actually isn’t the first time Wichita State has recruited Shorter, who said he nearly became a Shocker back in 2007 in Marshall’s first season in town. It was Mark Turgeon who first recruited Shorter, but Shorter said he lost interest in WSU when Turgeon wanted him to go to prep school for a season.
“Wichita State was a place I wanted to be,” Shorter said. “I talked to the coaches and built those relationships, but in the end it just didn’t translate. We both moved forward. I have no regrets. I feel like my career played out the way it was meant to.”
While Shorter may not have played for WSU, he brings the same type of underdog mentality with him.
Shorter started his career at a junior college, transferred to Texas A&M Corpus Christi, then finished at North Texas where he became a starting guard on a team that won 24 games and reached the NCAA Tournament. Shorter played his role on a winning team at North Texas, averaging 6.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game in two seasons.
After graduation, Shorter couldn’t find a professional basketball gig or even a full-time job. So he returned home to Houston, where he continued to train, and worked part-time for a friend who owned a bar across the street from Minute Maid Park, the home of the Houston Astros, and parked cars on game days for $50 a day.
He finally received his break when he was invited on a traveling tour in Mexico and caught the eye of a professional basketball scout who offered him a job. In the eight years since, Shorter has played in 10 different countries, most recently helping lead Mobis Phoebus to the Korean Basketball League championship, averaging 16.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
“I used to pray for these days,” Shorter said. “I prayed for these opportunities because I knew that once I got one opportunity what would come out of that opportunity. I know the work I put in and how strongly I believe in myself. I’ve always considered myself the underdog.”
That kind of grind reminds Aftershocks coach and former WSU player Karon Bradley of a lot of former Shockers.
“He fits right into the grit and grind of Wichita State basketball,” Bradley said. “You have a lot of guys who played here who had to work their way up in the world the same way he did. So he fits that blue-collar attitude for sure, and I think fans are going to love him.”
Shorter takes pride in always playing for winning teams. He says he’s played for championships the last three seasons, and that winning mentality has meshed well with the WSU players on the Aftershocks.
“I know how to play the game the right way, so when you have that high IQ I feel like everything can integrate itself pretty easily,” Shorter said. “The guys are all welcoming and I feel like we all know how to play basketball, so that will make it easy on the court.”
For the Aftershocks, Shorter knows he will have a role to play as a versatile guard. At 6 feet, 4 inches and 210 pounds, he has the size to bully smaller guards in the post. He’s also worked diligently on improving his outside shot and is a point guard by nature, so he has no problems creating for others. He’s also an above-average defender and rebounder.
Shorter still recalls coming to Koch Arena for Shocker Madness some 12 years ago and how electric the crowd was then.
He’s watched from afar and knows it has only improved and there’s a piece of him that has always wondered what it would have been like to play in front of a Wichita State crowd. Now he’ll get his answer.
“It’s crazy how I feel like my career has come full circle for me in kind of a different way,” Shorter said. “I know TBT is just a summer tournament, but it’s kind of formatted like the NCAA Tournament. It’s 64 teams, single elimination. I’m just really excited to get out there in front of Shocker fans and hopefully play my best games and hopefully they welcome me.”