March 30, 2012

Shastri busts out

Kevin McCarthy

Miramonte High's Kiran Shastri hopefully isn't going to be one of those. You know, that group of prep prospects of which college assistant coaches could make their bones over but instead suffer from roundball projection myopia.

Shastri stands 6-foot-5 (with probably another inch or so to go) and is coming off a junior season in which he averaged just under 24 points and eight rebounds per game for the 20-10 Matadors. It was a second place finish in the tough Diablo Foothill Athletic League (DFAL) in which every conference member save one finished above .500 overall.

photo of Kiran Shastri

For him, the words you often see on t-shirts at tournament reading "Ball is Life" could have been coined by Shastri. As he puts it, "I've always loved to play and I do it all the time." The kicker is when he adds, "it's more like a habit I can't get rid of."

Not that he has any inclination to do so.

Asked about his best basketball skill, the long-armed Shastri offered, "It would probably have to be my shooting." Dave Brown, Kiran's varsity coach at Miramonte for the past two years, elaborated on his senior-to-be talent: "Kiran can score from just about anywhere -- inside, finishing at the basket, with a pullup jumper and well beyond the line. He scored 24 points a game for us on 14 shots a game," indicating Shastri's offensive proficiency.

Brown added, "Kiran's a good playmaker, with a good handle, someone who works hard, is a great kid and a great teammate. He also has a good basketball IQ."

Shastri explained the latter by saying "I've played a long time and have learned what to do and not to do in certain situations."

He may not have been dribbling in diapers but it was two sports for him while growing up -- baseball and basketball. It wasn't necessarily a fork in the road that appeared but Shastri went basketball solo come the eighth grade.

He sees dramatic differences in his play, both from his freshman season and even from last season. "As a freshman, I was a perimeter player and even last year, I didn't have to be a scorer and I took a lot of threes. This season, I had to be the scorer on the team but now I also play inside and score mid-range. I've developed an all-around game." Brown concurs: "most of his points came inside the arc this year."

Shastri is also a practitioner of a lost or dying art: "I like to pump fake, take one dribble and shoot a pull up jumper" rather than the tear drop used by so many.

Queried about his best moments on the court, Shastri recalled two. "In the second game this season against Campolindo, it was at our place and we were down 28-10 in the first quarter. We came back and won, one of our more exciting wins and the atmosphere was great. There was also the double overtime game against Analy when I had 40 points." What he didn't mention was the 73-68 overtime victory against Sierra on March 7 in which he compiled 38 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots.

He'll be playing for the Oakland Rebels and Coach Ryant Diew this spring and summer and because of the makeup of the Rebel squad, Shastri will be positioned on the wing, his more-than-likely college position.

Academically, Shastri said "I'm not where I want them to be" but he expects to meet NCAA requirements by the conclusion of next year.

Also beginning now, he'll be working with his trainer, Robin Hood, honing all aspects of his game. One such area, as Brown explained, "Kiran has more of a set shot behind the arc but he jumps and shoots from anywhere closer in."

Plus, Shastri currently checks in at 175 pounds so more muscle and weight will be needed for college ball but that's a prerequisite for 99.9% of those transitioning to the next level.

Are we talking another Damian Lillard situation here? One of an overlooked prospect who comes back to haunt a number of college assistants?

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention...