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Boys basketball: Shaner named player of year

Published: Saturday, March 29, 2014 12:11 a.m. CDT
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(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com)
Eastland's Dalton Shaner is SVM's boys basketball player of the year for the 2014 season.

Somewhere in the Eastland boys basketball record book a footnote should be made giving some credit for Dalton Shaner's program-best 1,752 points to Skyler Barncord.

Barncord's influence on the record extends beyond the support the 5-foot-2 guard gave from the sideline during most of Shaner's playing career with the Cougars.

In fact, if not for Barncord, Shaner might never have dedicated himself so much to hoops.

All Barncord had to do was hit Shaner with a baseball. He succeeded, Shaner walked away from baseball, and decided hoops was where he'd focus his energy.

"When I was little, I was really good at baseball," Shaner said. "I was the All-Star MVP twice. I could pitch really well.

"Then there was one season where I got hit like 10 times. The last time I was diving into second base, and little Skyler Barncord threw the ball. It hit me, and I just remember thinking that I'd had enough of this."

At Eastland, where it is common for athletes to pop up in a sport every season, Shaner became the exception. His sport was basketball. Once he hit junior high, his skills started to improve, and with that, so did his time on the court.

Eastland coach Tony Dunlap laughs when the baseball story comes up about SVM's basketball player of the year. He knows his team benefitted from the move, even though he encourages his players to participate in sports during every season.

"There are those rumors out there about what kind of baseball player he could have been," Dunlap said. "I just think that Dalton is gifted enough that he'd be pretty good at just about any sport he put his mind to.

"Thankfully, he found basketball. I think without basketball, he would have struggled sticking with school. Basketball gave him the motivation to work hard in class. Hopefully, it keeps motivating him in the future, and that he uses that mindset in all parts of his life."

Shaner is the first to admit what basketball meant to him. He knew that walking away from baseball bothered his father, Dan.

"My dad loves baseball," Shaner said. "I knew it made him mad that I wasn't going to play. I just wanted to do something that my parents would be proud of. I think that I did that in basketball."

****

Maybe humble beginnings helped this batch of Cougars develop into a squad that won back-to-back sectional championships and placed fourth at state in 2013.

"We were really bad in junior high," Shaner said. "I mean, we couldn't beat any of the teams around here. Every team had someone that was better than me."

The developing started on the only outdoor court in Lanark, where he and his teammates met every Sunday to play. Those games continue, although they've moved inside the Eastland gym. Those games have allowed him to appreciate the players around him more, namely Skylar Paulson.

"I play against him, and I just appreciate how nice it was to have him on my side," Shaner said. "He's a guy you hate to play against. He's so aggressive. He's not dirty, but he plays so hard all of the time."

His improvement continued when he entered high school. An ill-timed vacation actually allowed him to accelerate the learning process.

"We were going on vacation at the start of the season, and I had to make up like 10 practices," Shaner said. "So, I ended up practicing with the varsity. That opened my eyes pretty early."

Shaner moved up to varsity as a sophomore, starting as a guard. Over the years, his coach pushed him to develop.

"With Dalton the biggest change has been in maturity," Dunlap said. "He's matured a lot, and that has helped on the court. We've worked on developing his shot, pulling up more, and those type of things he'll need at the next level."

One of the major hurdles for Shaner was getting over missed opportunities. Dunlap points to a missed shot in the regional championship game against Forreston his sophomore year.

While many that have watched him play wouldn't think it, confidence was a battle for the scorer.

"Missed shots used to bother me," Shaner said. "Coach said he could see it on the court. I'd miss a shot, and it would affect me the rest of the game. I had to learn how to get over that."

Shaner internalized missed chances. He had the ball in his hands in both the state games as a junior with a chance to win. Neither chance turned into the coveted points.

"I had never been in a spot like that before," Shaner said. "I think I got so nervous that I wasn't thinking about what I was doing."

***

In a coincidence, Shaner's final high school game included getting hit – but not by Barncord.

Instead, he took an elbow to the lip from Mooseheart's Mangisto Deng late in the third quarter of the Cougars' loss at the 1A DeKalb Supersectional.

The elbow broke skin on the outside of his lip, and his teeth tore into his gums, meaning he was bleeding in two spots. He spent much of the rest of the game covering his face with one hand, and running to the bench to wipe his face during dead balls.

"It just felt weird," Shaner said. "I don't think it affected the outcome, but I don't think I've ever shot before with one hand covering my mouth."

The Cougars fell to Mooseheart, a team that sported three players from Sudan all taller than 6-foot-7. The Red Ramblers continued on, and eventually won the 1A state title.

"You just don't see teams with that much size and talent in 1A," Shaner said. "You never want to lose, but if you do, I'd rather do it to the team that ends up being the best."

The pressure now is on Shaner to make a decision on his future. He has visits planned to multiple schools, and listed Highland, Dubuque, McKendree and Edgewood as possible destinations.

Basketball is his main focus, and he is undecided on what major he would pursue. His hope is to end up in basketball in some form.

"It's what I love to do," Shaner said. "Maybe I can get into coaching, or into recruiting. I don't know what you call that, but I think that's something I'd be good at."

What about baseball?

"I told them if we had won state that I would have joined the team," Shaner said.

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