Stephen Shields could not have found much more of a winding path to have the opportunity to play basketball at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level.
After graduating high school, the Neelin product decided to join the Brandon University Bobcats men’s volleyball team for a pair of seasons in which he redshirted for the 2008-09 campaign before appearing in six matches the following season and recording three assists and an ace. He then transfered to Keyano College in Fort McMurray, Alta., for a year before returning home.
Shields decided that he didn’t want to play volleyball after that and started looking at basketball. He joined the Brandon senior league and went on to play for the Assiniboine Community College Cougars men’s team for a season, coaching the women’s team as well.
All that work has paid off as the 24-year-old has committed to join the Lakehead University Thunderwolves, who are based in Thunder Bay, Ont., and compete in the Ontario conference.
"I’m beyond pumped," said Shields, who has worked as an educational assistant in Regina for the last year. "I’ve almost been craving (playing basketball at a competitive level) for the last three years. Playing senior men’s and all that stuff is fun, but it’s not the same thing. You don’t have that every day grind of practising, working hard with a group of guys and seeing them every day. I can’t wait to get back into that and having that team camaraderie. I love being around the team and I can’t wait for that."
Shields plans to study kinesiology at Lakehead before transfering into education with the goal of becoming a teacher.
He admits it will be quite a jump in quality of basketball to join a CIS team, but he has been training hard to get into shape for the fall and believes the pre-season will help get rid of all the kinks.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound power forward is considered to be heading into his fourth year of eligibility but is challenging his year at ACC so he can be listed as a third year. He doesn’t expect to play a lot this season, with Lakehead power forward Ryan Thomson heading into his fifth year, but that doesn’t bother Shields at all.
"The first year there, I’ll probably be a role player," he said. "Right now they have Ryan Thomson and he’s one of the best power forwards in the country, in my opinion. He’s the same height and build as me and he shoots the ball really well, he’s extremely skilled and smart and I’m excited to get there and learn from him.
"Hopefully I get that other year back and for two years I’ll be a major player on the roster."
Lakehead finished fourth in the OUA West Division with a 9-13 record last season and fell 68-65 to the Western Mustangs in the division quarter-finals.