After a legendary high school career at Hartsville, Jaylen Shaw envisioned a productive and successful career at the University of South Carolina.
Luckily for Coastal Carolina, things didn’t go as planned for Shaw in Columbia.
Instead, Shaw is closing out one of the better careers in the history of the CCU program.
“He’s given us a great three years and he’s going to be missed,” CCU coach Cliff Ellis said.
Shaw’s statistics make him arguably one of the 10 best players in CCU program history.
Despite playing only three years in Conway after transferring from USC, Shaw’s 1,373 career points are 11th all time in the program, his 446 assists are fourth and his 1,098 field goal attempts are ninth.
His 169 assists this season are the seventh most in a single season at CCU, and his 123 free throws made are the seventh most in a season.
He was named to the Sun Belt All-Conference Second Team prior to this season after averaging 14.3 points and 3.8 assists per game as a junior, and is essentially tied for the team lead with 14.4 points per game this season while placing third in the conference with 5.5 assists and fourth with 1.6 steals per game.
In addition to his statistics, Shaw has been relied upon to make big shots and big plays when games have been on the line.
“He’s been a guy in the last three years that we’ve put the ball in the hands of a lot to make plays, and he’s been pretty good,” Ellis said. “Last year we were a lot more successful because he had some experienced players around him. This year he’s had a lot of inexperienced players around him, and he’s been keyed on. Everybody has zeroed in on him, which means that it has been tougher to get a bucket. At the same time he’s had to be more patient.”
Shaw has made Ellis’ job easier as a consistently positive influence on his teammates throughout his career.
“He’s been our leader. That’s the guy they look to, every one of those guys,” Ellis said. “He made that point Day 1 of practice. He’s not a vocal person by nature, but he’s been vocal and I’ve been very proud of that. But the respect factor comes from being able to deliver. You’re not going to be a good leader if you can’t play.”
A combo guard
Shaw is fourth all time at CCU in assists despite not playing point guard for much of his career.
Ellis considers Shaw more of a shooting guard. Shaw considers himself more of a point guard. He has played both at Coastal, often times in the same game. Shivaughn Wiggins was the point guard in Shaw’s first year at CCU, but Wiggins missed much of the 2016-17 season with an injury and Shaw moved to the position.
“I grew up as a point guard and I’ve always been a pass-first player,” Shaw said. “But I can always shoot the ball and score the ball too, so coming here that’s what coach Ellis needed me to do and that’s what I started out doing, and I’ve played point guard over the years from time to time. It has just been a combination of both. When I need to score I can score, but I actually like getting guys involved, too.”
At Hartsville, Shaw scored more than 1,700 points and won two state titles in 2012 and 2013, when he averaged 23.1 points, 8.9 assists and three steals during his senior year.
Perhaps second to Roderick Blakney in individual accolades at Hartsville, Shaw has the two state titles Blakney never earned.
Blakney was a high school teammate and is a friend of Shaw’s father, Calvin, and Shaw learned a lot going up against the older Blakney during summers in high school. He’s still learning from him, as they still talk at least a couple times a month and see each other on the court back in Hartsville on occasion.
“We always talk about who did what and how we did it, but at the end of the day it’s all love,” Shaw said. “We get real competitive against each other when we play against each other, but it’s all good. He always tries to help me out with my game and I ask him questions.”
A backup point guard in his year at USC, Shaw struggled for minutes as a freshman even when starter Ty Johnson broke his foot and Bruce Ellington left for the NFL after three games. He averaged 9.7 minutes and 3.0 points per game over 28 games. Shaw’s senior class at USC reached the Final Four last year.
“Being from South Carolina, the University of South Carolina was always one of the dream schools to go to,” Shaw said. “It was SEC, I felt like I was ready and I felt everything was a good fit for me. But things didn’t go the way I would like for them to go and I ended up here.
“For the most part it was mostly the basketball part. I wanted to play a little more, I wanted to be on the floor, and I just wanted to find a different fit for me.”
Shaw also had a difficult situation midway through his freshman year when he lost his grandmother to cancer.
Per NCAA rules, he sat out a year after transferring to Coastal, which was among his considerations coming out of high school.
CCU and USC renewing their basketball rivalry gave Shaw a chance to play against the Gamecocks earlier this season, and he nearly led the Chants to an upset with 17 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals – compared to South Carolina starting point guard Hassani Gravett’s nine points, one rebound, four assists and one steal – though he missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds in an 80-78 loss.
“He had a great game against them and that had to feel good,” Ellis said. “And we had them beat. If there’s one game you look at where Coastal Carolina had that game, that was it.”
That road game, along with a few others in December, including a close loss to Wake Forest at home, had the Chants looking like they’d be a formidable team this season in the Sun Belt Conference. But they ended the regular season 14-17 overall and 8-10 in the conference.
“Even though it’s my senior year it’s been a learning process for me,” Shaw said. “The season has been up and down for me personally, just trying to be consistent, trying to come out every night expecting the same thing from me. And the team has had up and down games.”
Coastal Carolina is the eighth seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament and will face ninth-seeded Texas State at 12:30 p.m. (Eastern) Wednesday in the opening round at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
Shaw and forward Demario Beck are the team’s only seniors, and reserve guard Christian Adams will also leave the team after earning a degree in three years.
So the conference tournament will be their last chance to prolong their college careers.
“For the last few games in the tournament I’m trying to leave it all on the court,” Shaw said. “I don’t want to have nothing left behind, and I want the rest of the guys to do the same for me and Demario and Christian as well. I’ll try to lead them to do that.”
Shaw said he hopes to play professionally following the season, overseas if necessary. “I just want to go somewhere where it’s well worth the time and worth going and leaving my family,” Shaw said.
That family includes a daughter, Addison, who will turn 3 in June and lives with her mother in Hartsville.
“It just makes you look at things a different way,” Shaw said. “It’s not about yourself any more. You’re living for somebody else and trying to make sure they’re good. It changes your whole perspective on a lot of things.”
Shaw often goes back to Hartsville on weekends to spend time with her, and she attended a game with his parents on senior night, a 72-70 win over South Alabama that ended with Shaw feeding Demario Beck for a game-winning layup inside the final second.
“She’s getting older and she’s starting to realize I’m out there playing basketball,” Shaw said. “She actually said she has seen me on TV a couple times.”
Addison will factor into Shaw’s post-CCU decisions. “I’ve still got to make a huge decision on that,” Shaw said, “but sometimes you’ve just got to make sacrifices and do what you’ve got to do to support the people around you.”
Once his playing career is complete, Shaw wants to forever be called “Coach Shaw.”
His high school coach at Hartsville, Aric Samuel, is now the head coach at Coker College in Hartsville.
“I tried to learn from him and learn from coach Ellis over the years,” Shaw said. “And I also remember a lot of things Frank Martin did at South Carolina, his ability to push us and make us go all out. I really admire that. He really pushed me to levels I didn’t believe I could go to.
“I’ll try to put that together and try to do something of my own. . . . I feel I could be a good coach one day.”
Ellis believes Shaw is suited for the profession. He has essentially been a coach on the floor for three seasons, a productive one at that.
“I knew coming in he’d be ideal for us because his dad was a coach in Hartsville,” Ellis said. “He’s been around the game all his life, knows the game, understands it.
“He gets it.”
Shaw earned a degree in August in communications with a minor in sports studies, and he’s pursuing a second degree in sociology.
“Coming here was one of the best decisions I ever made,” Shaw said. “It worked out for me academically and athletically playing basketball here.”