Wayne Blackshear
September 11, 2008

Wayne Blackshear

Curie's Blackshear: A sophomore sensation

Chicago Sun-Times - Yourseason.com - By Scott Powers - September 11, 2008

Curie’s Donovan Foster nicknamed Wayne Blackshear “Freshman sensation” last season.

Now that Blackshear’s a sophomore he’s adjusted it.

“I guess it’s just ‘Sensation’ now,” Blackshear said.

For those who witnessed Blackshear’s game this summer, there wouldn’t be any arguments. After emerging as one of the state’s best in the Class of 2011 last season, the 6-foot-5, 190-pound swingman did the same on the national circuit.

He earned MVP honors at the Reebok All-American Camp. On a Mac Irvin team loaded with talent, Blackshear often stood out. At the Hensley Memorial in Indiana, his smoothness was compared to Wayne Ellington’s by one recruiting analyst. By the end of the summer, there were few players who blew up more. Scout.com ranked him No. 8 in the Class of 2011 and the nation’s second top shooting guard.

“No doubt about it, he was definitely one of our biggest stock raisers of the summer,” Illinois Prep Bulls-eye’s Roy Schmidt said.

Curie coach Mike Oliver said, “In a way, I didn’t think he’d progress this quick. I knew he had it in him. I’m surprised he’s risen this high this quick.”

Blackshear’s high school career seemed fated with this sort of success.

He was being compared to Corey Maggette before he even played a game. His debut brought out media, college coaches and scouts. He hit his first game-winner in his fourth varsity game. He had 16 points against West Aurora at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. He went for 17 points and seven rebounds to knock off Foreman and its highly-rated backcourt from the Public League playoffs. He had double figures in Curie’s upset of Young in the quarterfinals. He scored a game-high 20 points in Curie’s regional championship win.

Throughout it all, Blackshear showcased his athleticism. He could hang in the air and swat shot even on his way down. He floated past defenders to the rim and finished. He jumped over people for rebounds.

Scouts were impressed, but they noticed he did have flaws. He rarely shot from outside and when he did, his jumper looked shaky. More noticeable was his ball handling. His right hand looked fine, but he almost never went left.

With him projected as a shooting guard or small forward, everyone realized his future depended on improving those handles. Oliver and Blackshear sat down and talked about just that after the season.

“I told him if you go out and do those things the sky’s the limit in your game,” Oliver said.”

Blackshear spent hours upon hours on ball handling drills. At first, it was frustrating and difficult. His left hand was far behind his right. But he stuck with it, and now, … “I don’t know why, but I’m driving more to my left than to my right,” he said. “It was a lot of hard work.”

The work certainly paid off. He took defenders off the dribble in either direction all summer. He also showed an improved jumper that allowed him to score in almost any way.

“The things that he has shown the most notable improvement in are his perimeter skills,” Schmidt said. “When I say that, I’m talking particularly about his ball handling. He put the ball on the floor and got to the basket. Up to this point, he’s tended to do everything with his right hand.

“I think that’s a question of work ethic and focus. He appears to be much more focused now. During the spring and summer both, I just thought he showed a consistent effort and much improved work ethic every time out.”

Blackshear opened his own eyes to his ability at the Reebok All-American Camp. He surprised himself by just making the all-star game.

“I thought I was good, but not that good to make it with those type guys in the nation and stuff,” he said. “When I got the all-star game and made MVP, I look back and say, ‘Wow.’ I couldn’t believe it.”

It’s resulted in boxes of recruiting letters. He has yet to draw an offer, but plenty of big-time schools are after him. DePaul, Florida, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Illinois, Purdue, Southern Illinois, Wake Forest and Wisconsin are among those recruiting him. He once thought of Arizona as his dream school, but has since changed his mind. He’s considering making a few visits this year with Texas being one of those schools.

For the most part, he’s wide open. He did say with Illinois already having a stacked backcourt for the years to come, it’s the one school he probably isn’t going to consider.

“Illinois has so much talent and guards already,” Blackshear said. “I probably wouldn’t go there.”

Recruitment is on the backburner for Blackshear now. His priority is his sophomore season at Curie. With the graduation of Donovan Foster, he knows he’ll have to step up in many ways.

“Winning city and state, that’s our goal this year, be a better leader,” Blackshear said. “That’s it for my sophomore year and play hard.”

Oliver said, “This year he will have a bull’s eye on his back. I told him, ‘You’re the guy they’re going to try and stop.’”