T.J. Shorts shoots for a future in professional basketball

T.J. Shorts freshman point guard for Saddleback Gauchos basketball

T.J. Shorts, a freshman point guard for Saddleback Gauchos basketball, has shot 76 point this season. (Angel Grady/Lariat)

Many people go their lives without receiving awards or recognition for their skills. Imagine if at the age of four you discovered your talent and others noticed it too. For this young point guard that is exactly what happened.

In a league of 100 kids, winning the MVP of a basketball tournament of children ages 4-7 was his first accomplishment in the sport, he has been playing ever since.

Timothy Shorts Jr. known to friends and family as T.J. is a freshman point guard for Saddleback College’s basketball team. Like all the players on the team, Coach Andy Ground and his assistant coaches recruited Shorts as a senior from High School.

As a child he fell in love with basketball, and that was it. No other sport mattered.

“When I was about four years old my mom put a basketball in my hand,” Shorts said. “Ever since then, I’ve been just playing basketball, that’s the only sport I’ve ever played my whole life.”

Growing up he had different types of training his dad put him through for basketball. He has always gone through a variety of ball handling drills and ways to improve his game. The training he received growing up, he continued to carry with him as he got older.

Shorts stated he comes from a great family, with one older sister and happily married parents. He is close to his family, they are very supportive, come to all his games and love to do so. They prefer when the games are local, but they still make the drive to wherever he plays.

“We were just in Cuesta, down by San Luis Obispo,” Shorts said. “They came dow­­­­­­­n there.”

Shorts was born and raised in Tustin, California and attended Tustin High School all four years. He started playing basketball as a freshman but it was not long before the coaches noticed his potential. As a sophomore he moved past junior varsity and was placed on the varsity basketball team.

That year while on varsity he had limited minutes coming off the bench. During his junior year he was a starter on varsity but did not feel he was into his whole game. By the time he was a senior he had grown into his jump shot and began to further develop his skills.

“After my senior year came out,” Shorts said. “I had one small NAIA offer from Hope International University.”

According to www.naia.org, The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is a governing body of small athletics programs that are dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics. The student-athlete is the center of all NAIA experiences. Each year more than 60,000 student-athletes have the opportunity to play college sports at NAIA member institutions.

Regardless of the NAIA offer from Hope University, Shorts did his homework on junior colleges. He found that Saddleback was one of the top schools for basketball and decided to make Saddleback his choice for education and sport.

Without a specific school in mind, his main focus is to receive an athletic scholarship. Scouts from different universities will come watch an athlete play a game or watch them throughout the season. If a scout likes the performance of a player, they will offer them a scholarship to play for their school.

“Right now I just want to get to a university, that’s like my main focus, I want to receive a scholarship,” Shorts said. “Whatever university gives me a scholarship, that’s what college I’m going to go to.”

The young Gaucho has his mind set on going to any university and playing for their basketball team.  While his dream would be to play in the NBA, that is not the only avenue for professional basketball. There are many teams overseas that he would be happy to play for. He knows the chances of getting drafted into the NBA are slim.

Based on hoopsville.com 2.9 percent of players make the jump from high school to college. 1.3 percent make it from college to pro and .03 percent make it to the pros out of high school. That means out of every 10,000 kids playing basketball in high school only three will make it to the pros.

A point guard is the one who is like the coach on the floor, they call all the plays. When the coach has something to say, they usually tell the point guard who then tells the other players. Part of his job is to get other people shots or get other people open. At the same time, when it is time for his shot, he takes it.

“He’s really a good player, he can really defend, he runs the team well, he makes good decisions and he doesn’t turn the ball over,” said head coach Andy Ground. “When you have a good point guard like that you always have a good chance to win.”

The Gauchos basketball team practices Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m. with the occasional Saturday practice, but T.J.’s dedication goes beyond that. He lives close to Saddleback with a couple other players from the team, so he returns to the gym every night for another hour or so to practice on his own.

“I’m practicing pretty much all my game, my shot and my ball handling,” T.J. said. “All that different kind of stuff I can use in the game.”

If for whatever reason professional basketball does not work out for him, T.J. has a backup plan. He is thinking to major in kinesiology and ultimately he would like to work with kids, teaching and training them the fundamentals and techniques in basketball.

In the me­­an time, he attends school full-time, taking general education, health, intro to kinesiology and playing basketball. His plan is to continue toward his education while playing for Saddleback, but only for two years before getting picked up by a university with a full athletic scholarship. Fortunately for Shorts, his coaches do not see him being here that long.

“I think his future is very bright, I think he’ll probably only be here a year,” Ground said. “He’ll probably leave after this year, he’ll get a scholarship somewhere.”

When not playing basketball, he is watching it, at the beach or just relaxing.

The Gauchos have played seven games in this season, at this point there is not a starting line-up. Shorts has started in four games, but has had playing time in all seven. He is shooting 50 percent from the field and has just over 40 percent from three point. The season so far he has put up 76 points.

These stats are only the beginning for the Gauchos’ freshman point guard. His numbers are sure to climb as his talent gets better with more college experience. In the near future look for T.J. Shorts, when watching college basketball, it shouldn’t be long before he is playing for a university.