By TED SILARY
WILDWOOD, N.J. - This isn't the first time Shaquille Shannon finds himself wondering how a challenge will go.
As in...does he have a chance to finish No.1 academically in the senior class at Communications Tech High?
"I'm No.2 right now," Shannon said, "and my GPA is 3.5. The No.1 guy is Jason Francis and he has a 3.7. We only have one class together, French, and he's smart. Very smart.
"It'd be nice to finish No.1, but it's not like I'm hoping he messes up. He's a good guy. Any chance I get, I encourage him."
Shannon is a 6-foot, 170-pound guard and yesterday, at the Wildwood Convention Center, he totaled 25 points, eight assists and four steals as the Phoenix fileted Pleasantville, N.J., 80-55, to win the championship of the four-team Jersey Shore Bracket in the Boardwalk Basketball Classic.
Shannon showed a quality jumpshot complete with all of the desirable ingredients - lift, snapped-wrist release, soft touch, follow through.
It wasn't always that way and that presented, yes, a challenge.
"I wouldn't say I was a horrible shooter when I was younger, but I sure didn't shoot them this well," he said. "That changed when I came to Comm Tech in the ninth grade.
"Coach [Lou] Biester changed my shot. I used to shoot them from here" - he pretended to perch a ball on his right shoulder - "and he got me to shoot them the right way from in front of my face. I wasn't sure how that was going to work out. But it did.
"Once coach Biester changed my style, then I did a lot of extra shooting work [with assistants James Carr and Lamont Washington]. I still do lots of work. I live right down the street from school and a rec center, so I'm always shooting at those two places. Even outdoors, if I have to."
Shannon was at his sniping best in the second quarter, going 5-for-5 (one was part of a three-point play) for 11 points as CT rolled to a 25-12 advantage, thus creating a 42-27 lead.
He worked in perfect harmony with fellow guards Raheem Roher (21 points, four treys, four steals) and Gameel "Pepsi" Strange (nine points, seven assists) and forward Sherm Blanford (17 points), especially in terms of making things difficult for the outmanned Greyhounds' offense.
Often, the Phoenix would double the ball, make a flat-out steal or force a bad-pass turnover and then zoom in the other direction.
Later, as Strange took a rest, Shannon moved to the point and was impressive there, as well.
"I guess I like the wing better because it's easier to get comfortable shots," Shannon said. "You can move around and look for good spots. But I do like playing the point some, too, because it's fun to set up your teammates."
Increases the marketability, too.
So far, Shannon has heard from Stony Brook and East Stroudsburg. CT (5-0 overall) figures to make major noise in Public C, and possibly overall, so Shannon should receive sufficient exposure to scouts.
"What a great kid," Biester gushed. "He's really a basketball player. I wish I had 30 more just like him."
While here, the Phoenix stayed in a Days Inn and had dinner in a summer home owned by Biester just a couple of blocks from the Convention Center.
The meal was fine, but overall a rollicking time was not had by all.
"We basically just chilled in our room," a smiling Shannon said, shrugging his shoulders. "Watched pro and college games on TV. It was too cold to go walk on the boardwalk. I wasn't looking to freeze or get sick.
"I liked this, though. Good chance to get to know some of my teammates better."