Life After The Game: Former pro athlete from Monroe, LA begins new life after saving sister’s lifeApril 12, 2017 1 By congotvnetwork
Kids who grow up playing basketball in the street or at the local recreation center usually have one goal in life… to make it to the Pros. For Shanderic Downs it was a fact. He knew it. The school knew it. His whole city knew it.
He was going to be big one day.
Growing up in Monroe, LA it’s not uncommon for local athletes to play ball professionally. “That’s what people don’t know about my city. We produce greatness,” said Downs, who grew up in a neighborhood where several retired NFL and NBA players lived.
“Bill Russell, an 11x NBA Champion is from Monroe. Shack Harris, the first black QB to start in an NFL game is from Monroe as well,” said Downs. “In our neighborhood, we knew it was possible to make it big,” he said. Legends lived around him. “They were examples and great role models.”
In High School, he was a starter for the Wossman High School Basketball Team. “Winning the State Championship in 1992 is still the most important time of my life,” he says. Even though his team went 30-1 that season, their near perfect record is not what he remembers most.
“Our team wasn’t just a team. These were my best friends. You rarely get a team full of guys who were already close friends before they even made the team. Our chemistry was magical,” he remembers.
He esteems Coach George Belton and Henry Beaver as his mentors. “Coach Belton made me improve my attitude and prepared me for college ball,” he says. “The Boys & Girls Club kept me off the streets as a kid. Without it, my life may have gone another route. Mr. Beaver coached me there and he worked with us at the recreation center near my house.”
After college, Downs played professionally in Finland. “Playing professionally was amazing. At one time I was making $10k per month,” he said. Then, the ultimate happened.
“Like many ex-athletes my pro career ended sooner than I would have liked,” he recalled. “I ruptured my Achilles tendon.” Downs says his career began to decline when he realized the game is more business than it is athletic. “The business side took away my love and commitment to the game. I realized once I was hurt, the team wasn’t concerned about me or my career.”
Despite much popularity in several countries, Shanderic was still forced to retire.
“Most young athletes think that they can play as long as they like and also most don’t put too much thought into what they want to do once their playing days are over.” Once his playing days were over he had no choice but to return to Monroe.
For most people, returning to a small town in North Louisiana would be a professional death certificate. After being accustomed to fast life and a healthy bank account, no plan in Monroe could possibly measure up to childhood ambitions and expectations which all were terminated the day his achilles tendon was torn.
“For me, moving back home was cool. I was comfortable with settling down. I had been gone since I left high school. Then, I played in different countries but I kinda missed the simplicity of everyday life here with my family and childhood friends,” he explained.
Coming home he hit the ground running. He got a job working for the city’s Urban Development Department. He became a Coach at Neville High School in Monroe and formed his own Non-Profit… S Downs Basketball Inc.
After settling for the simple path, he had no idea being home would position him to face the greatest challenge of his life.
Shanderic’s sister, Rosalind, was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, which is a disease of the liver.
“We searched for donors everywhere and could not find a match. My sister’s life was on the line,” he says. Even though his sister was adamantly against it, Shanderic asked to be tested as a donor without her knowing about it. He was surprised to find out he was a match.
“When I found out I could save my sister’s life I didn’t even have to think about it. I was all in,” he says. But Rosalind found out there was a great chance her brother could die due to this operation. “He has kids who need their father and I didn’t want my brother to die,” said Rosalind.
He convinced her to approve the surgery and on November 30, 2016 he donated over 50% of his liver to save his sister’s life. “It’s what God wanted,” he said with conviction.
It’s going to take a year for his body to fully recover. “I felt a sense of relief after the Liver Donor Transplant surgery, not only for my sister but our parents as well. They were at risk of losing BOTH of their kids.”
Downs says he feels a little better each day. “I’m looking forward to being able to pick up my 4yr old daughter again,” he said.
He has faced career termination. He has defeated death. He has mastered what people may consider ‘small town limitations’. What could he possibly do with the rest of his life?
“I knew it was time for me to do what others had done for me,” said Downs.
Downs has Basketball Camps and Clinics all over the region year round. “I use basketball as a bridge to connect with the youth. It enables me to mentor and encourage them in dealing with life issues beyond the basketball court.”
His youth camps and mentoring programs are supported by fundraisers and private donors. Most recently, he launched a T-Shirt line promoting what he believes is the message kids really need to learn.
“My clothing line, Neighborhood Hero, is to bring light to our community,” he explains. He says kids grow up idolizing NBA and NFL stars. “Michael Jordan or Lebron or Kobe… to a kid they are heroes,” he said.
“But my life has taught me, real heroes are the people who inspire and motivate our kids to dream big and strive to be productive citizens and providers for their families.”
He says the true “neighborhood heroes” are the school teachers, mechanics, barbers and beauticians, coaches, community activists, pastors, and anyone doing what they can to make a positive impact in the community in which they live. “These people should be celebrated. Truthfully, their impact is the ammunition a kid needs to become successful,” he says.
The road hasn’t been easy for Downs. In fact, its completely different from the life he imagined growing up on the Southside of Monroe.
Winning is not what you do on the basketball court. Perhaps, winning is defined by what you do when you’re not on the court. Sometimes, the best way to improve the world is to simply begin improving your own neighborhood.
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