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San Clemente's Shelmidine giving his all
Gage Shelmidine’s vision never seems to take a break.
On the court, his eyes are constantly scanning. Driving to the basket, finding an open shooter on the perimeter, finding the prime position for a rebound.
Off the court, he has multiple visions of aiding the community’s youth and the goal of starting his own nonprofit for families struggling with drug addiction.
His vision and perspective are of optimal importance for the success of San Clemente’s boys varsity basketball team as it sets out to defend its 2014-15 South Coast League title.
His drive is constantly in motion.
The 5-foot-10 senior is off to a good start on the hardwood. In just the second game of the season, Shelmidine had the best game of his high school career against Eisenhower of Rialto, lighting up the stat sheet with 36 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. One number short of a triple-double from one of the shortest players on the court.
“It’s one of the best performances I’ve seen from a high school player ever,” Tritons coach Marc Popovich said. “He’s incredibly important, he’s our engine. He’s the guy that brings that energy level, he sets the tone for the game, he has no fear.”
Shelmidine is unique that way. His play, at times, is as colorful and varied as the hair colors he cycles through from week to week. Despite his short stature, he is fearless in driving to the rim.
“Why not try to finish every play and score every time?” he asks. “It’s basketball, have fun with it, it’s a fun sport.”
During games, he doesn’t get fazed by much. He keeps his emotions in check, he keeps his teammates involved and organized.
Shelmidine’s goal this season is to be the best player, teammate and opponent he can be. His previous experiences have set him up to be the leader San Clemente basketball needs this season.
“He does a great job of getting to the hole and distributing the ball,” said forward Cole Fotheringham. “He can score at will and he’s just an all-around great player. There’s not much more you can ask of him.”
While Shelmidine’s play on the court is for his teammates, more important assists have helped him realize his purpose. Often referring to how blessed he has been to this point in his life, Shelmidine gives back to his community as often as possible.
He has coached and assisted at numerous youth basketball camps across South Orange County, spending weeks of three to eight-hour days teaching the sport he loves. In addition, he spends 10 to 12 Saturdays a year as a referee for youth games at Dana Point’s Recreation Center.
Volunteering for both has given him multiple eyes with which to view the game while he’s on the court. The added perspectives give Shelmidine an open mindset as to what others are seeing.
Sure, there are times where Shelmidine doesn’t get a call from an official that he feels he would have called if he were refereeing, but the game moves on.
“I think it makes it so that he has perspective and can communicate with all his teammates, he understands that everyone is a little bit different,” Popovich said. “It’s something that took me a while to learn as a coach when I was younger, but he’s already getting that.”
Shelmidine transfered to San Clemente from Saddleback Valley Christian before the start of his sophomore year. The opportunities that arose from that decision have him characterizing it as one of his better choices. Shelmidine attended SVC from preschool through ninth grade and looks back on that time fondly.
During the summer after his sophomore year, Shelmidine was nominated by San Clemente to attend the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership conference at Chapman University. Shelmidine wrote an essay at the three-day event that earned him a trip to the HOBY World Leadership Congress in Chicago and, subsequently, all the way to the Advanced Leadership Academy in North Carolina.
The experience was one Shelmidine holds close.
“It was a mind-blowing experience,” he said. “There were 425 kids from around the world, all sorts of different cultures, religions, outlooks and attitudes on life.”
At the ALA event, he was able to further expand his vision of starting a nonprofit for families struggling with drug addiction. The calling stemmed from personal experience. Shelmidine’s mother, Mindy, struggled with drug addiction until he reached second grade.
The support of her children was a major assist in the fight toward sobriety, Gage said. She has held strong for 10 years.
Now, Shelmidine’s ultimate vision is to show kids that they don’t have to follow in the footsteps of those going down a bad road. Simultaneously, he wants to show that kids can have a vital role in helping those same people to find a way out of those hardships.
“It’s definitely a huge motivator, especially to see how far my mom has come, the fact that she’s been able to turn her life around, you want to give everyone that hope,” Shelmidine said. “I feel that everyone deserves to have that chance.”
Shelmidine’s actions off the court inspire his teammates at San Clemente, who see all that hard work. He takes nothing for granted.
“Things aren’t given to him, he earns it,” teammate and fellow guard Blake Birmingham said. “He’s always been a role model to me. He’s one of the hardest working guys I know and it’s just a quality that is really important in life. It really inspires me.”
Shelmidine is very in tune with who he is.
“I’m really into being different and out there,” he said. “God made me the person I am and I want to be who I am, I’m sort of a bright, colorful person.”
On New Year’s Day 2014, Gage and Mindy got tattoos together. Vibrant and resting at the top of his left shoulder, his bears a cross and his favorite bible verse.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Shelmidine’s playing style at the point guard position is perhaps more expansive than some of his counterparts in Orange County.
His variety allows him to help the team in myriad ways. His confidence in his teammates reassures him that the pressure won’t always be on him to carry the team.
“(He’ll) command more attention from the opposition and use that to his advantage,” Popovich said. “Teams will collapse on him and do different things on him, but he’ll rely on his experience to make the right reads and do the right things for us.”
Added Shelmidine: “I’ve been more of a passer and defensive minded throughout my career, but I feel like this is a team in which I need to score a bit more at times. There’s also games where I don’t need to score, I can just dish the ball to our shooters and we’ll still get wins.”
Shelmidine says a prayer before every game as a way to help himself remain calm. It also acts as a reminder of why he plays - for fun and to be the ultimate teammate.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed. After the team’s season-opening loss to Capistrano Valley Christian, Eagles coach Zach Brogdon would say two nights later that Shelmidine may be the best point guard in the county.
Shelmidine hasn’t given it much thought. He’ll let others decide if that’s a worthwhile argument. After three years, his coach has the utmost confidence in his abilities.
“I would put him against anybody else and I wouldn’t want anyone but him as the point guard of my team, he’s the first guy I would pick,” Popovich said. “He’s just a special kid and we’re really happy to have him.”
With Shelmidine’s vision and leadership, he has the ability to give Popovich and the Tritons’ basketball program a third South Coast League title in the past four years.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s just another small way that Shelmidine can give back for all he’s been blessed with to this point in his life.
“I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities and have been able to play for some of the best coaches in O.C.,” he said. “I feel like with as much as I’ve been given, I should give back.”
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