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Floyd helps young guard fulfill a dream

USC coach helps steer Jacobe Shannon, a friend of Ryan Francis, to a Division I school.

June 13, 2008|Jaime Cardenas | Times Staff Writer

Two years ago, Jacobe Shannon was sorting out mail. Now he's sorting out plans for a future that could include a four-year college degree.

Shannon, a point guard who has played the last two seasons at Antelope Valley College, recently accepted a scholarship from Jacksonville (Ala.) State.

"That was my goal, period -- to get to a Division I college and play Division I basketball," Shannon says. "That's pretty cool that it's about to happen."

For that, he can thank USC basketball Coach Tim Floyd. And also a dear friend who died.

Shannon was close with former USC point guard Ryan Francis, who was shot to death in May 2006 during a visit home to Louisiana. They were teammates in high school on a squad that went 36-0 and won a state championship their senior year.

Floyd met Shannon when both attended Francis' funeral. Recalling that he had heard Shannon's name while recruiting Francis, Floyd asked what the young man was up to.

The answer: Not much. Shannon, whose father was killed before the start of his senior year in high school, was out of school and working the night shift at the post office. He had a chance to play for Delgado Community College in New Orleans, but Hurricane Katrina forced the school to temporarily shut down.

Knowing that Francis wanted Shannon in college, Floyd offered help. He phoned a friend, Dieter Horton, who had just taken over as Antelope Valley's head coach. Shannon then followed up, asking Horton if he could play on his team.

What started as a favor ended up working both ways. As a freshman, Shannon was the starting point guard for an AVC team that advanced to the state championship game. Then, last season, he averaged about six points and three assists for a team that made it to the third round of the state playoffs.

A few four-year schools were talking to him, but none offered a scholarship until Floyd once again got involved.

Two months ago, Jacksonville State hired James Green to take over a team that had finished last in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Green, who had been an assistant under Floyd at Iowa State, was talking to the USC coach when he mentioned needing a point guard.

"I have just the guy," Floyd said.

Shannon was invited to visit the Gamecocks' campus, and before his trip was over he had an offer contingent on his finishing up some school work this summer.

"We're really happy for Jacobe," Floyd said, also speaking for the USC coaching staff. "Not only has he been provided with opportunities, but he's taken advantage of them. I have no doubt he'll end up getting his degree."

That was a goal Shannon had shared with Francis growing up.

"I'm living out our dream," Shannon said. "For all of us."


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