Credit: Lukšta
Credit Lukšta

When Shavon Shields arrived in Italy for the first time, he was a young rookie out of Nebraska, and he had played the first part of the 2016-2017 season with the Fraport Skyliners in Germany.

Free throws this season

Points made: 14,0
Accuracy: 70,0%
Place in standings: 5
Record max: 14
Record min: 14
Most made FTs: Nicolo Melli

He was doing well in Germany, the Skyliners had already avoided relegation, but they were also out of the playoffs zone.

Salvatore Trainotti, the GM of the Italian team Aquila Basket Trento, had already scouted him for a while and was impressed by how he played during the Portsmouth Invitational, the showcase tournament for seniors out of college.

"We had been following Shavon for a while," said Trainotti in a recent interview. "He did well in Portsmouth and was doing well in Germany too. He also had the Danish passport, which made him more suitable for our team."

Trainotti, initially, was looking at Shields for the following season, 2017-2018, but a couple of injuries forced him to look for reinforcements during the season.

"Luckily the Skyliners were already out of the playoff picture, so we agreed on a loan deal until the end of the season for Shavon", Trainotti explained. "In Germany, he was playing as a 4, but for us, he was more of a 3. At the end of the season, we paid the buyout on his contract with the Skyliners, and he signed a two-year deal with us". 

In his first few months in Trento, Shields had already shown some very interesting skills. At times, he was the main offensive option, in other situations, he was perfectly fine in being a team guy and fit into the system without taking too many shots.

In the 2016-2017 season, Trento reached the finals of the Italian Serie A, losing to Venezia 4-2. They pulled an impressive upset in the semifinals, eliminating Olimpia Milan, who had ended the regular season at the top of the league. 

The following season, which was the first full one with Trento, the beginning for Shields and his teammates wasn't exactly great.

They struggled, both in Italy and in Eurocup. At a certain point of the season, Shields started to receive offers from outside the country, and there was the expectation that he might have left the team before the end of the season.

"The start of that season wasn't positive for us, we got eliminated from the Eurocup, and we started to receive offers for Shavon," Trainotti recalled. "We talked with him, but he was convinced that staying with us was the best choice, so he told us, 'I'm gonna stay.'" 

That was actually a savvy decision because Trento had a tremendous second half of the season and reached the finals again, losing against Olimpia Milan this time.

But during those finals, Shields just completely went off, he had 31 points twice during the series, and in general, he was the main threat to Milan's title the entire time.

After those finals, it was clear that Shields belonged to a higher level, and that was time for him to make the jump and join a EuroLeague team. 

He signed a two-year deal with Baskonia, and in the first season with the team, he reached the playoffs both in ACB and Euroleague. He was also the top scorer of Baskonia in the regular season of the Spanish League, averaging 11.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.1 rebounds per game.

In the following season, Baskonia went through many difficult moments, they changed coach (from Velimir Perasovic to Dusko Ivanovic), but after the season was suspended due to Covid, they came back stronger for the resume of the season and won the title in the final against Barcelona.

Shields was a key factor in that victory and once again showed how he can easily switch from being "the guy with the ball in his hands" to be "the system guy who does all the little things."

Before that ACB final, Shields already knew that he was going back to Italy the following season.

Olimpia Milan had been following him for a while, and they decided that was the right time to take him. They convinced him to sign a two-year deal until 2022 (this summer, the deal has been extended for another year, so it's now until 2023).

Coach and president of basketball operations Ettore Messina was sure that Shields would have been a great addition for the team with his skillset: his ability to fit the system and take the ball in his hands and control the game when the time requires that. 

And Messina wasn't wrong because since his arrival in Milan, Shields has been an absolute factor for the team owned by fashion king Giorgio Armani.

In Serie A, he averaged 14.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game while shooting 37% from three-point. In Euroleague, he averaged 13.8 points, 4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game, shooting 43% from three-point.

He was named to the All-EuroLeague second team and was instrumental in reaching the Final Four, where Milan got very close to the final game, losing only in the final seconds of the semifinal against Barcelona. 

He was already a very good player, but since his arrival to Milan, Shields made a further step forwards and has positioned himself as one of the best two-way forwards in Europe.

The combination of his defensive and offensive skills it's something very rare to find. Standing at 2.01 m with very quick feet and impressive reactivity, Shields can lock up any opposing player on the perimeter.

It doesn't matter if he's guarding a backcourt player or a forward. Shields will provide the defensive work that the team needs from him, and with his frame, he's just perfect for the 'switch everything' defensive system that Ettore Messina wants from his players.

But Shields is a full-package offensively: he's strong enough to attack the rim off the dribble, he's an effective three-point shooter but can also score from the mid-range with his ability to stop the dribble and get up for the jumper. 

In this season, especially after the departure of Kevin Punter, who left Milan to join Partizan Belgrade, Shields is going to have an even more central role in the offensive system of coach Messina's side.

In the first few games of the Italian Serie A, Shields has already posted some impressive numbers, averaging 16 points per game, a trend that, if it continues, will represent the best number of his career when it comes to scoring.

Olimpia Milan have several veterans and experienced players in their roster, including EuroLeague legends Kyle Hines and Sergio Rodriguez, but if there's going to be a key to repeat the fantastic run that led to the Final Four last season, that is Shavon Shields. 

There was already some NBA interest for him this offseason, multiple sources told Basketnews, but the serious heat might arrive next summer.

"There were some conversations this summer, but NBA teams will come knocking at his door more seriously next summer, I believe," a league source told BasketNews.

"He fits the profile that NBA teams are looking for, a two-way forward who can contribute on both ends of the floor. Next summer, he's going to be 28, so he's also in the ideal age range to try to get a contract in the league," the mentioned source added.

There'll be time for the NBA, but in the meantime, Shields has a mission: helping Milan to reach once again the EuroLeague's Final Four and bringing back the 'scudetto' to Milan after losing to Virtus Bologna last season.

There'll be pressure for results, but as a son of a former NFL legend, Will Shields, pressure and expectations are nothing new to Shields. He'll let his game do all the talking, as he has always done. 

"Shavon is a team player, he always gives his 100% in training and supports his teammates and coaches. That's what Milan saw in him. Yeah, of course, he has talent, but he has always shown the ability to fit into a system right away, that's what makes him special", Trainotti said. 

That's what Shavon Shields is all about, and that's what turned him into one of the best players in Europe. 

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Shavon Shields

Shavon  Shields
Shavon  Shields
MIN: 27.85
PTS: 17 (64.29%)
REB: 7
As: 5
ST: 1
BL: 0
TO: 0
GM: 1