Stormy forecast

Shoun joins Tornado following basketball career at Johnson Co.

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR STAFF
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   Judd Shoun will enter the eye of the storm this fall. The Johnson County star signed a basketball scholarship Thursday afternoon with King College to further his playing career in the Tornado's brand new arena.
   "I'm pretty excited as King is where I wanted to go since I've been talking to colleges," said Shoun, about his intention to go to the Bristol school. "They have a good basketball program and the academics are promising."
   At King, he will be under the tutelage of head coach Scott Polsgrove. Just finished with his 12th season at the helm, Polsgrove has been a steadying influence on the Tornado program. King went 19-17 during the 2003-04 campaign, making an appearance in the NAIA National Tournament.
   Other King highlights from the recently completed season included a trip to the finals of the Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament.
   In the time since the year's final buzzer sounded, King has harvested a good crop of local recruits. In addition to the Johnson County star, three Tennessee High players (District 1-AAA MVP Drew Porter, Matt Buchanan and Daniel Booher) have signed with King.
   "I hope I can impress him (coach Polsgrove) like those Tennessee High guys have," said Shoun, himself an All-Watauga Conference and honorable mention All-State selection in 2004. "They have signed a lot more talent to play in the new gym. I played against Drew and some of those guys in the Bristol YMCA tournament. My team lost to their team in the finals each of the last two years, so I know they are really good players."
   Judd's prep coach Austin Atwood is happy to see his former player get the chance to compete at the next level.
   "I want to see Judd do good for himself," said Atwood. "I believe King will be a good fit for Judd and good for him academically."
   Shoun's high school heroics included helping Johnson County mount a 15-point second half comeback against Sullivan East his sophomore year. This past year he netted 22 points against the same Patriot program, leading his Longhorns to a memorable overtime affair. Shoun proved his ability against competition outside of this region as well, being the star of Johnson County's 2003 visit to a tournament in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
   "The biggest thing is he came off a good 22-10 team," said Atwood. "He comes to this senior year knowing the team doesn't have the same talent. He never did get down, quit or downgrade anyone on the team. He did as a good as he could."
   For Atwood, he will miss having a player in Shoun always willing to give an all-out effort.
   "Judd was a pleasure to coach," said Atwood. "He was a player you had to sometimes reign in, but you would rather have a player like that than someone you have to browbeat. Matt (Cornette), Tommy (Short) were more athletic, but as an all-around basketball player, Judd was the best kid I've had."
   For the son of Tommy Jack and Nancy Shoun, he even learned to appreciate the grueling practice sessions Atwood put the Longhorns through.
   "You hated practice," Shoun recalled. "He pushed you to the limits where you wanted to quit, but it paid off in the games and later on in the season. We always felt at times we would have a mental or physical edge on certain players."
   Atwood gave a further analysis on the player, King will be getting.
   "He was a good leader, who had a way of making good players great," said Atwood. "It was harder to adjust for him taking mediocre guys and making them good. Once he adjusted, he did a good job of leading the team.
   "He was the man at the point guard position, the coach's right-hand man. He was able to take the brunt of the coaches' criticism when things went wrong."
   Despite being in the line of fire as the team didn't perform to standards, like this past year when Johnson County won only eight games, Shoun says he loved the role of point guard.
   "I enjoyed going out there leading those guys," said Shoun. "It wasn't the best of times, but I felt the same about the guys I played with last year as I did the guys I played with my junior year. You have a special bond with each of them."
   Floor time at King could be difficult for Shoun during his freshman year. King has ex-Tennessee High star Derek Linkous, who averaged 7.3 points per game in 36 contests, penciled in as the starter at Shoun's position.
   "I would tell him not to expect too much at first," said Atwood. "It will take a half-year to get in a groove. The biggest thing playing college ball is adjusting to the physical contact."
   Other advice includes taking care of duties away from the basketball arena.
   "The teachers at King don't care if you play ball," said Atwood. "You must be academically ready for the challenge. I feel good he's going to King. I believe he'll surprise some people."
   Shoun's own expectations are muted at first, but laced with a streak of optimism.
   "This offseason I plan on getting in shape, lifting weights and getting my shots down," said Shoun. "I'm working on skills for the point guard position and looking forward to the challenge. I hope I have a good experience."