Only an unforeseen, freak injury or a stunning coach’s decision will keep Shavon Shields from making his 100th consecutive start Tuesday night.
And Nebraska men’s basketball coach Tim Miles says not to worry about the latter.
“I promise I’ll start him,” Miles said. “He’d really have to screw it up.”
That seems unlikely from an Academic All-American who’s continued his rise on several Nebraska charts.
The 6-foot-7 Shields, a senior forward, is averaging 15 points, 5.2 rebounds and three assists as Nebraska (9-8, 1-3 Big Ten Conference) hosts Minnesota (6-10, 0-4) at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The last time a Husker averaged at least 15 points, five rebounds and three assists in a season was Cookie Belcher in 2000-01.
The last time a Husker made 100 consecutive starts? It’s happened only once, by Dave Hoppen, the program’s all-time leading scorer who started all 111 games he played from 1982-86.
“There’s some stat where the human mind can’t comprehend a number over, like 70-something,” said Shields, a biological sciences major. “So I can’t really wrap my mind around it.”
Shields became the eighth Husker to surpass career totals of both 1,300 points and 600 rebounds in last week’s loss to Iowa. This season alone, he’s climbed from No. 24 to No. 12 on the school’s scoring chart, and has an opportunity to finish in the top 10 in both career points and rebounds.
“He’s such a foundation to this program under my watch,” said Miles, who took over the program before Shields’ freshman season. “He came in and was committed to Nebraska athletics for a lot of reasons. He saw himself fitting in well here.”
Shields, who battled an elbow injury early in his freshman season, entered the starting lineup for the first time in his career in a 47-41 loss to Wisconsin on Jan. 6, 2013.
He’s started every game since.
“From the get-go, I think he’s had a very positive impact on our program,” Miles said. “Since he’s been a freshman, he’s been one of those guys from the first practice before he hurt his elbow, where we're like, ‘OK, this kid is going to play a lot, he gets it.’ He knows how to play. We had Brandon Ubel at the same time. They were a great match together.”
As a sophomore, Shields was key in helping Nebraska to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998. As a junior, he experienced the lows of a nine-game losing streak to end a season that began with high expectations.
Now a senior, he’s trying to set the tone for a young group that, after pounding Rutgers 90-56 Saturday, has finally experienced victory in the rugged Big Ten.
“I think Shavon said it best, I said, ‘What do you think about these freshmen?’” Miles said. “He goes, ‘They’re great, I really like them, but I think they’re probably going to have to taste defeat before they learn how to win.’
“Getting over that hump is going to be huge, and that’s what we’re doing right now. You can see Glynn (Watson)’s numbers aren’t great, but we’re trying to live with him and give him a chance to get better. Shavon could see that coming. I agree with him, and when your captain’s perspective is such as that, you’re in pretty good shape.”
As for his streak of starts, well, it’s one Shields wasn’t even aware of until told last week.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” Shields said. “I was just like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’ I think after everything’s said and done, I’ll probably look back on it like I’m one of the few people to ever do that in this program.
“It’s one of those things you’ll sit back and you’ll look at, like, ‘That’s a pretty cool thing.’ But right now it’s not really something that’s super big.”