WOODSTOCK – Sam Shifflett knew what many of the teams were thinking about him after his sophomore year — ‘he’s just a 3-point shooter.’ So he decided to change that, and this season he’s shown just how versatile his game can be.
The Central senior is playing more in the post this year and is still as productive as he was before.
“I was just always thinking I have good touch, so why not take it around the rim and see what I can do,” Shifflett said. “So I started working on some post moves and the next thing I knew it was working for me. I love watching the baby hook go through just as much as I love watching the 3-pointer go through.”
The 6-foot-3 Shifflett has had to play more inside the paint this season due to injuries and the Falcons’ lack of depth inside.
Shifflett said it’s been a different role for him this season, but he’s enjoying it.
“Everybody knows that I’m not the quickest guy,” Shifflett said. “So playing the two and three was always harder for me. So now I’m matching up with people that are more of my quickness, and I like being inside better.”
Shifflett is one of Central’s team captains and has taken on many roles for the squad this year.
Central coach Jeff Whittle said Shifflett’s leadership, his basketball IQ and willingness to make the extra pass to his teammates have been huge for the team this season.
In a victory over Stonewall Jackson earlier this season Shifflett didn’t score a point, but Whittle said his impact in the game was big.
“He contributed to that game; it just may not necessarily show in the stat line as far as points go,” Whittle said. “But as far as rebounding the ball, extra passes, being a leader, he was important. I told him he played a great game. He just didn’t get a lot of looks in that game.”
Shifflett said he enjoys making a pass to an open teammate just as much as making a 3-pointer.
While Shifflett has added to his game and is more versatile, there’s no denying his shooting ability is one of his biggest strengths.
As a sophomore, Shifflett broke two school records for most made 3-pointers in a game (10) and most made 3-pointers in a season (75). Shifflett said he entered this season needing just 35 3-pointers to tie the school record for made 3-pointers in a career.
“People always say like ‘what’s the legacy you leave behind?’” Shifflett said. “Now I have my name in Central for hopefully a good while, maybe forever if we get lucky enough. It’s just awesome to have your name on something here that everybody can see.”
Whittle said Shifflett has perfect form and “is one of the best shooters I’ve ever coached.”
“He has great form, but he has a quick release,” Whittle said. “There’s sometimes when his feet might not be in the proper position like you want it to, but he’s able to adjust his body, his arms. He’s able to adjust and still make quality shots.”
Shifflett said he developed his perfect form by getting in a lot of shots since he was younger. He said that he has a basketball hoop in his backyard and he is constantly shooting there and playing whenever he can throughout the year.
Shifflett said he’s had a lot of help developing his shot over the years from his dad, former Central standout Jared Hoover (whose school records Shifflett broke) as well as Stonewall Jackson assistant boys basketball coach Roger Wilkins.
“I just got a lot of shots up,” Shifflett said. “And once you get that muscle memory down and you just have the form, it helps a lot.”
Shifflett said that breaking the school records his sophomore year is something he won’t forget, but he said he also wouldn’t forget what the Falcons accomplished last season as a team. Central advanced all the way to the Class 2 state semifinals.
“That was awesome,” Shifflett said. “I love playing with those guys. It was something special. Playing at Spotswood (in the state semifinals) and seeing like 5,000 people watching you play basketball — it’s crazy.”
Shifflett said he plans to attend James Madison University next year and will not play sports. However, he said that he hopes to become a history teacher and a basketball coach someday just like one of his biggest role models — former Central boys basketball coach Jeff Walters.
“He’s been a huge mentor,” Shifflett said of Walters. “And just watching the stuff that he did for us. And I’ve just had so many great coaches in basketball it just makes me want to be like those guys one day. Every basketball coach I’ve had has been great.”
The Falcons are off to an 8-3 start this season. They started 5-0 but then lost three in a row to three teams in higher classifications.
Shifflett said he believes the three losses will help the Falcons, who play at George Mason tonight, in the long run, and that the team can get back to the state tournament this season.
He said that being a senior this year makes him even more motivated to have a great season.
“It pushes you,” Shifflett said. “It’s like ‘hey man this is your last ride, you got to make the most out of it.’ So I wanna go, go, go.”