Navy men's basketball head coach Ed DeChellis often cautions his team captain Shawn Anderson about trying to take on too much.
DeChellis advises Anderson to be certain that he isn't stretched too thin and can always perform at his highest level no matter what he pursues in life.
Anderson understands his coach's concerns but somehow he manages to juggle the strenuous requirements of the United States Naval Academy with the commitment of being an NCAA Division I student-athlete and his desire to make a difference in the community.
And he does it all very well.
"That's just his personality," said DeChellis, now in his seventh season at Navy. "He is a young man who tries to do it all. He does very well in school and for us on the basketball court, and now he strives to do well helping others. It's a credit to his parents and is part of his DNA and upbringing. He is a very giving young man who wants to help everybody. Sometimes the hardest thing is to just say no. There's only so much tread on the tire, so I just tell him that whatever he does to make sure he's able to do it well."
At one point a few weeks ago, Anderson, a 6-foot-4 senior guard from New Castle, Pa., was the only player in the Patriot League to lead his team in points, rebounds and assists.
That was before final exams and a bout with bronchitis that might have slowed him a bit, but through 15 games Anderson still led the Midshipmen in scoring at 12.7 points per game and assists (3.3) while ranking second in rebounding (5.7). Voted captain by his teammates last spring and a preseason All-Patriot League selection, Anderson led Navy to an impressive 9-4 nonconference record before the Midshipmen split their first two conference games against Loyola and Lehigh.
In addition to his basketball exploits, Anderson will receive his commission as an ensign in the Navy upon graduation. He also recently received his service assignment, Surface Warfare Officer, and will get to choose his ship in a few weeks.
"I'm hoping to be able to choose either a destroyer or some other type of amphibious ship, hopefully stationed in San Diego, so I can get out of the cold weather a little bit," Anderson said. "I truly enjoy people. People can be exhausting to work with, but it can be tremendously rewarding if you stick with it. I'm going to be in charge of a division of people and get to know them and grow with them and go on deployments with them. Then, hopefully, I can find my way back to the Academy maybe as a teacher and to get my master's degree."
Working with people, teaching and giving back are themes that continue to surface in Anderson's life. A graduate of New Castle High School, Anderson and classmate Michael Geramita co-founded a nonprofit organization called Forever Red Hurricanes while still attending the school.
They initially launched a program called Canes Coats for Kids, which solicits donations from the community to provide warm coats for children in need. That was just the beginning, though as the foundation since has created a mentoring program called Transitioning for Success, which helps sixth-grade students with the often-difficult transition from elementary to junior high school, and is now developing a program to work with kindergartners in the New Castle area.
While Anderson has been away at college for the coat drive since graduating, he has assembled a group of younger volunteers to take leadership roles in the organization and continue its efforts.
Most college students look forward to a little relaxation during the summer, but Anderson requests leave after his classes conclude in May so he can return home to continue his work in the community, meeting with volunteers and speaking to the kids the foundation touches.
"We want the kids of New Castle to see what we are doing and aspire to do more," Anderson said. "Whatever they want to do, we want to help them get to the next level and encourage them to be strong and always strive to do better. A lot of kids didn't have role models when we were growing up. We had a father and mother who always encouraged us to do great things, but not every kid in New Castle has that. That was huge and meant the world to us. We want to be that person in their lives."
As Anderson's career at Navy winds down, he believes his success on the court might come as a surprise to many back home. Anderson was the tallest player on his team in high school and was used as an undersized center.
"When you look at where I came from in New Castle to what my role is here, I don't think anyone in New Castle would have thought I'd be in the position," Anderson said. "I'm blessed to be here, and I just try to play as hard as I can night in and night out and do what the coaches ask me to do and what the team needs me to do to win."
His coach recognizes and appreciates the hard work it has taken for Anderson to be an impact player at the Division I level.
"He was a 6-3 or 6-4 center when we first saw him," DeChellis said. "It was obvious that he had a great work ethic and was really well-coached. He worked really hard and could catch and pass. Really we just had to work on his perimeter skills. He's definitely made a huge transformation at both ends of the court and become a very good player for us."
That work ethic has made Anderson an impact player both on and off the court.
Photo Credit: Phil Hoffmann/Navy
This article has been updated since it's original publication.