PROVIDENCE — As if on cue, God Shammgod started talking about Ricky Ledo’s situation.
Mind you, there wasn’t a lead-in question posed to Shammgod with the intent of correlating his two-year playing stint at Providence College to the same temptations of leaving school prematurely that Ledo will deal with soon enough. Sitting in Alumni Hall’s cafeteria the other day, the conversation with the now 36-year-old Shammgod began with how much he’s enjoyed being back on PC’s campus as an undergrad student and a member of Ed Cooley’s basketball staff.
“Providence helped mold the person I am. Without being the person I am today, I wouldn’t have been able to last this long,” stated Shammgod, his voice full of battle-hardened wisdom that’s unquestionably been shaped by a basketball odyssey that saw him follow the bouncing ball in this country – a 20-game NBA stint with the Washington Wizards in 1997-98 – and on the other side of the globe.
The point guard blessed with a quick handle smiles when talking about the two MVPs he won while playing in China, and how in the same country, he received the most All-Star Game votes for an import during one season. His face turns serious when traveling back to the spring of 1997 when a then-sophomore Shammgod decided to strike while the iron was hot and test pro basketball’s waters.
“That probably wasn’t my biggest mistake, but one (that helped mold) the learning curve of my life,” reflects Shammgod. “If you don’t learn from mistakes, then it’s a problem for you. Going through that in 1997 helped me come full circle in 2013.”
The well-traveled Shammgod is then asked about how he explains his own life experience should today’s Providence players inquire. These days, he only not finds himself applying the finishing touches to a degree in education – Jan. 2014 is when he expects to complete his requirements – but also serving as basketball’s version of a life coach to a group of young men who have their futures ahead of them.
Shammgod has a lot to offer, particularly to one member of this year’s Providence team. Like Shammgod did some 16 years ago, Ledo stares out at a future filled with allure and promise, though nothing is guaranteed.
“I talk a lot about taking advantage of their current situations, especially with Ricky,” said Shammgod. “He’s in a similar situation that I was in. It’s beyond basketball at this point and that’s what I talk to him about.”
In some ways, Shammgod and Ledo are basketball blood brothers. They were hardwood royalty before setting foot on PC’s campus; the only difference is that Shammgod’s rise to McDonald’s All-American status was not publicized in the same all-out fashion that gripped the highly-touted Ledo.
“Everyone can touch the kids today,” notes Shammgod.
Shammgod was 21 when he declared for the NBA Draft while Ledo sits out PC’s season as a 20-year-old redshirt freshman undoubtedly envisioning what’s in store should he decide to travel down the same road that looks and feels awfully familiar to a certain ex-Friar.
“When you’re hot, everybody says everything is hot. Everything is good, but nobody ever tells you about the ‘what ifs?’ Everyone is riding the same wave at the same time,” Shammgod explains. “I can tell about the ‘what ifs?’ because I’ve been through them.
“The one thing I wish I could do over is become a full person while I was in college, “Shammgod delves deeper. “Whether it was six more months I needed or two more years, just becoming a full person … I got to the cusp of evolving and I rushed God’s plans.”
Shammgod befriended several members of Ledo’s family when he attended PC the first time around. Years have passed with the shoe now on the other foot – Shammgod serving as a concrete example of what lurks behind the curtain should you forgo any remaining eligibility.
“I think it’s beneficial because Ricky can see something live and in proof,” Shammgod said. “He gets to hear stories from me.”
Shammgod expressed that the more he gets to know the Providence native Ledo, the more he wishes the best for him. When PC is on the road, Shammgod spends time with Ledo – along with Tyler Harris, another PC Friar sitting out this season – to work on his game, while taking the opportunity to go over finer points that have nothing to do with putting a basketball through a hoop.
“The one thing about Ricky that people should know is that Ricky is a very, very intelligent kid,” he stresses. “He thinks about life after basketball and his options about leaving and staying. What are the good and bad points? He’s really receptive to that.
“Ricky is ahead of the curve. I don’t think people ever saw that because of the environments he was in,” Shammgod added. “I think people have a false perception of him and I think this is the first time people have seen Ricky in a stable environment.”
In that department, Shammgod feels Cooley deserves a ton of credit.
“Being here with coach Cooley and Providence, it will make him a better young man and a basketball player at the same time, and I think Ricky should embrace that challenge,” Shammgod feels. “I think the most important thing is that he has a coach like Ed.”
In PC’s media guide, Shammgod is listed as undergrad student assistant coach. That only begins to describe his true worth to the Friars – when class lets out at 9:30 at night, he’ll head to Alumni Hall and hoop it up with any interested player. By forgoing the last two years on his playing contract in China, he kicked off what he hopes is a long and prosperous coaching career, while at the same time, finish up his degree.
“I talk about God Shammgod from PC, God Shammgod with the Wizards, and God Shammgod from China,” he said. “In life there are stages; you can’t talk about one stage without talking about the other.”
Such advice only comes through walking the walk, something Shammgod clearly has and can remind Ledo of whenever the two are in each other’s company.
RIM RATTLERS: When St. John’s visits Providence on Saturday night, the Red Storm will take the court minus the services of leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison. The school announced Friday that the sophomore guard is suspended for the season’s duration. Harrison was averaging 17.8 ppg. … With a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament already secure, PC heads into the final three games of the regular season with two clear-cut objectives: obtain the highest seed possible and sharpen up its postseason prospects. The 7-8 Friars enter Saturday’s action ninth in the conference standings, with the 8-7 Red Storm directly above them.