If you were to walk into the gym at a U of T Blues basketball game, one player would stand out at first glance. His name is Daniel Johansson, a forward from Sweden who is six foot eight inches tall — an intimidating presence on the floor.
However, if you were to stick around for the game, you’d notice another player take centre stage. You may not have even noticed him at first: he’s a normal enough looking guy. He is six foot one inches tall, has no tattoos or sleeves, and is not that imposing or flashy. But as the game goes on, you notice that he’s the guy calling the plays, he’s the loudest one out there, he’s the one hounding the opposing guards, and he’s the one who controls the pace of the game.
His name is Evan Shadkami, and he’s a starting guard. Last year, he led the team in scoring, steals, free throw attempts, free throw percentage, and games played; he was second in assists.
While Shadkami is a graduate of Central Technical School right here in Toronto, he credits his time away from the city for turning him on to the game he loves.
“Around grade six, I moved to [Lansing, Michigan]… and then there was a net there, and I was just playing everyday,” Shadkami said in an interview with The Varsity. “In the [US], it’s way different.” Shadkami describes that at his school in the US, gyms and courts were always open and available at lunchtime. “So I was playing a lot during that period, in that one year, and then after that… I got serious about basketball.”
Shooting around in empty gyms and street courts was how many legends of the game made their starts, but in 2020, you have to take new health measures into account. Not everyone can use a gym, but Shadkami has found a way to keep sharp even under these exceptional circumstances.
“When [lockdown] first started, it was tough… No gyms were open,” Shadkami said. “I would just go workout… at my friend’s house, and we’d go play outside here and there.” Once his friend got a job at a gym and lockdown opened up, Shadkami would come visit and help facilitate the basketball camp.
Shadkami is committed to keeping in form for his fourth year with the team, but he’s worried about the fate of the season under COVID-19 as games for the fall season have been cancelled. Shadkami still holds out hope for games in the winter semester; a cancellation decision has not yet been made by Ontario University Athletics for next semester.
“I think we have a good team this year with a lot of guys [who] can… score themselves,” Shadkami said. “I think everything is just going to flow a little better; I think we’re going to win more games.”
“Will we see you in a Raptors uniform one day?” I asked him.
He laughed. “Yes,” he answered.
I wouldn’t be surprised. The Kyle Lowry of U of T, Shadkami hopes that the winter semester will allow for games to resume.