TCN 1-On-1: American Basketball Player Shannon Shorter Talks ABA League & Life in Croatia

Burak Canboy

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Burak Canboy
Burak Canboy

Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview. Let me congratulate you on receiving the ABA League Top Scorer Award this year. You won the Korean Basketball League Championship in 2019, but apart from the Israel All-Star Game MVP in 2014, this was only your second individual international award. How do you feel?

I did win a league’s top scorer title in Israel before, but it was not celebrated officially like this one. It surely wasn’t my goal to become the league’s top scorer when I signed. I was only looking to compete in a new league that I had heard about. I thought that I could have done better but also felt I was able to improve my game a bit during this time. It is surely a blessing being able to compete at this level.


Why basketball?

As a kid and young man, I tried different sports. Did football, baseball, etc. but at some point, I saw my brother’s success in basketball and spent a lot of time and tried to follow in his footsteps.

I told my Mom I wanted to be in the NBA one day. I want to be a professional basketball player. I managed to become a professional, and the NBA is still on the horizon [laughs].

What did you know about KK Split and Jugoplastika before coming here, and what have you learned since then?

I had heard of the club and knew about Croatian legends. I read up a little online about Toni Kukoč being from here and about the 3 Euroleague titles.

The biggest thing to take away as an experience since coming here is seeing the fans and how they supported the team and me. I came here to win the title and am very disappointed about not having been able to do that for the fans and the club. 


How would you describe the five months you have been with the team? Namely, your experiences with the management, coaches, players, and fans?

I have nothing but good things to say about all of them.

KK Split is the 20th club in a 10-year career (2x Hebei Xianglan, China, and 2x Ostioneros de Guaymas, Mexico). You probably get this quite often, but how come you have changed clubs and countries so much?

Well, it wasn’t planned. I did not want to go back home. If you know what I mean. I felt discomfort at home. Especially financially, so I tried being more comfortable. I tried doing something I loved and was able to get paid for it. Then after some time playing in Mexico and South America, I looked for an agent and asked him to give me the best opportunity to move my career forward.

Every step since then felt like moving forward.

USA, Mexico, Argentina, Israel, Japan, China, Turkey, France, Australia, Lebanon, Korea, Greece, and Croatia. That is 13 countries in which you have played basketball so far. Which was your favorite country to live in, and where you have enjoyed the level of competition the most?

Israel and Australia to live in. It was a very relaxed feeling. Competition was Turkey and Australia, apart from ABA League now, which is also very competitive.

Is there any country or league still on your “bucket list”?


That was a very fast answer! Why?

I’d say that apart from the NBA, it is one of the top 2 competitive leagues in the world, along with Turkey. It would be great to get a chance to compete on that level. 

I would like to ask you a few rather lifestyle and political questions. Most of our readers are either Croats abroad or expats in Croatia. I am sure they would like to hear how it feels for you to work and live as a foreigner in Croatia? How does Croatia relate to the other places you have played?

Croatia is surely up there with one of the top places. Split is a nice place, not too big,  no need to drive; things are close enough that you can walk to places with a lot of tourist attractions. I especially like spending time by the Riva.


You are originally from Houston, Texas. What do you love about Split, what do you like doing here, and what do you think is missing?

The people are really nice. I just love to go for walks; the experiences here are wonderful. 

What are you missing?

My wife. 

That’s something we cannot change. But what would you say Split could change to be even better?

I really don’t know. It is a very unique city. Maybe the stores could be open a bit longer.

If you do not wish to answer this one, I can understand, but what are your experiences regarding racism in sports, and how do they differ here in Croatia from other countries you have played in?

Growing up, I either didn’t experience racism much, or maybe I wasn’t aware of it yet. I would say that I didn’t experience it as a professional player. Neither elsewhere nor here. Then again, I must say that the Zadar fans have been very disrespectful. I wouldn’t say that was racism. I appreciate supporters trying all to get the opponent’s players off their game, but in Zadar, it was too much. 


Anywhere else you have experienced that?

[Laughs]. Yeah. The fans in Lebanon were even tougher. 

Do you wish to comment on the gun shooting in Uvalde, Texas? I hope your family and friends are safe. 

It is very unfortunate, very sad. It is very distasteful and I don’t have the words; I still don’t have them. I don’t know what to say to the families; I don’t know what an individual may be thinking to do that. It must have been some very deep insecurity within himself. Something must have hurt him very deeply. 

I believe that usually, such things come from the heart. Like premeditated murder, you have to think about things first. It must come from the heart. Or rape or anything you would say is abnormal. Such things always come from inside.

I pray for the hearts of everyone on earth to get rid of that darkness in their hearts and be able to find love.

This is the 2nd mass shooting in only two weeks. Lawmakers need to make changes. It shouldn’t be possible to put guns into everyone’s hands. Things have to change.


Let me get back to the sports-related questions. Last year Zadar won the championship after five games against Split. This year you played a lot of derbies with Zadar both in the ABA League and in the Premijer Liga. Why do you think they could pull off those important games, and why did Split fall short when it counted?

I won championships and am used to playing in the finals over the years. When you play for titles, you understand what things you need to do and what things you cannot do when games are on the edge.

For example, on Friday, we had the momentum when we were up by 10 points. Then you get called with an intentional and a technical foul. They score all free throws and get points off the inbound. Your energy, lead, and momentum are gone.

So I can say they were more mature mentally to know how to win these games where every possession matters. We just aren’t there yet.


In the second quarter against Zadar, you had a few successful back-to-back pick and roll plays with Shawn Jones. Why didn’t we see these kinds of plays during the fourth quarter and regularly earlier in the season?

The play had just come to play approximately two weeks ago. That’s why we hadn’t used it much before. Later in the game, I agree that we could have used it more often, but other plays were also working well with Vuko and Roko. 

Your coach Srđan Subotić had his first year as a head coach. How do you think he did in general? What are his strengths, and what do you think he could improve in the future?

I have a lot of respect for him. He had a lot of pressure on him the entire time, but you could not tell. He did very well to have the team focus on what’s ahead, not what’s behind. I think he could push players more out of their comfort zone to challenge everyone to deliver greatness all the time. 


You are now almost 33. Coach Srđan played until he was 37. Michael Jordan came back out of retirement at your age and won three more titles before retiring at 40. How do you feel about your body, and how many more seasons do you think you have in you?

I always said that I would love to play until I am 40. In the meantime, I got married, which shifts focus. Luckily I had no serious injuries, so my body still feels good. I surely have 3 to 5 more years in me.


How much time do you spend thinking about the future, and what are your plans after retiring as a professional player?

I am thinking about the future a lot already and have a foundation back home where I do community work and try to give something back with scholarships and back-to-school drives. That’s something I would do more. I also would love to do news and analytical work. I am looking for opportunities to do that in the summer. Other than that, I am meditating to help me stay present in the moment and enjoy what I have now.

Are we going to see you playing for KK Split again next season?

That’s a good question. It is a possibility. I don’t want to rule it out. I told the team and the management that a mutual benefit would need to be reached. I know my value and timing made it possible this year. So many talks will be needed, and we will see where it goes from there.

Once more, thank you for taking the time, and I must say that I would personally very much enjoy bumping into you again under the baskets of Gripe next season. However, even if not, I wish you and your family a safe future on your journey around the basketball courts of the world. 

Thanks, I appreciate it. 

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated sports section


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