Shaffer’s defense is vital for Carson
The challenge from Carson basketball coach Bruce Barnes comes every league game, and more often than not, Brennan Shaffer has been able to deliver.
Shaffer, a 5-foot-8 senior guard, has become the Senators’ backcourt stopper on defense. It’s a role he has gradually grown into as the season has progressed, and one that has been important in the Senators’ 9-2 Sierra League record entering tonight’s home game against Galena (7 p.m.).
Shaffer’s usual assignment is to guard the top player who is 6 foot 1 or shorter, though he has defended taller players at times. Josh Peacock (6-foot) is considered Carson’s stopper in the frontcourt.
“I like the challenge of trying to shut down the other team’s top guard,” Shaffer said. “You don’t get much recognition playing defense. Not many people know about me.”
Shaffer held Damonte’s Matt Nuthall to three points (Nuthall scored seven overall) in the Senators’ win in the first half of the season. He also was key in Galena’s Alex Hansen being held to five points in a 43-40 Carson win earlier this season.
Shaffer’s role has changed dramatically since last season. He was originally penciled in as the No. 1 point guard until sophomore Andrew Johnson stepped into that role. Shaffer was slowed by a stress fracture in his right leg during the spring and summer, and the Carson senior feared he wasn’t going to get significant playing time because of his second injury in as many years. He worked harder than ever to get into the rotation.
“It was a pride thing for me,” Shaffer said. “It was my senior year, and I didn’t want to let my dad down. He played sports at Douglas, and I didn’t want to let him down. I wanted to do well for my dad.”
Defense is all about desire; the willingness to compete. It doesn’t take a tremendous amount of skill to play defense. You just have to want to work hard. That’s what Barnes was counting on when he made the move. He said any offense he gets from Shaffer is just a bonus.
“What got him into the lineup was his defensive intensity,” said Carson assistant Carlos Mendeguia. “Brennan showed he could be a stopper, so we’re kind of playing with two point guards.”
Brennan is just happy to be getting significant minutes, especially after a broken navicular bone in his left foot caused him to miss all but one game of the 2008 football season and most of the basketball season.
“It was a horrible year,” Shaffer said. “I tried to come back too early (from the football injury) because I wasn’t sure if I would make the basketball team or not. I did make the team, but I couldn’t play. Once the league season started, I knew I wasn’t going to get to play. Matt (Rutledge, last season’s starting point guard) helped me a lot to prepare for this and to get used to coach Barnes.
“I’ve been playing sports all my life and that was the first serious injury I’d ever had. It was the first time I’d ever broken a bone.”
And, he doesn’t harbor any ill will toward Johnson for not getting an opportunity to play point guard.
“Andrew has been our best player this year,” Shaffer said. “Point guard is hard. I’d played point all my life. It’s more fun (playing a wing). It gives you a chance to do different things. I try to bring the intangibles and defense. I focus on those things rather than scoring.
“I can hit the open shot. They don’t run sets through me, but I can score.”
Shaffer is averaging 6.2 points per game in league play. He led the team with 17 in a loss to Manogue and scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, in wins over Fallon and Damonte Ranch. The 12-point effort also was a team high.
“He’s a set shooter,” Barnes said. “Give him time and there is a good chance he’ll make it. He and the other guys on the floor benefit by Andrew being able to break down the defense.”