Before he was a hero, back when he was in high school at Hunters Lane (Nashville), James Shaw Jr. was a solid basketball player.
The man who wrestled a gun away by its barrel from Travis Reinking — the man accused of opening fire on customers at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tenn., on Sunday — made the best of his late start on the Warriors basketball team, according to his former coach.
Shaw, 29, did not play as a sophomore, but joined the team in his junior (2005-06) and senior (06-07) seasons, and though he never was a star, developed into a dependable player with a great work ethic, said longtime Hunters Lane basketball coach Anthony Sewell.
“He had some pretty good athletic ability; he was a late bloomer,” Sewell said. “He was a guy who came off the bench and gave us some quality minutes. I’m pretty sure he would say, ‘Coach should have given me some more playing time.’ He was a guy who worked hard in practice, played hard in games and was a good teammate.”
Shaw also played football for one season at Hunters Lane.
But he worked especially hard at his basketball game and attended summer camp heading into his junior season at Tennessee State.
“He was a hilarious guy,” Sewell said. “A jokester, but in a good-natured way. He was one of those guys who could brighten the mood after a tough loss or a bad practice. And he was one of those guys who was very enjoyable to be around.”
Sewell said he and Shaw have been in contact from time to time over the years.
They have stayed in touch enough that Sewell recognized Shaw right away when he saw pictures of him showing off the wound he suffered when he was hit by a bullet during the scuffle at the Waffle House.
“I saw the picture online and said, ‘I know this guy,'” Sewell said. “Then I scrolled down and saw the caption and I realized it was James and I was just amazed. I’m proud of him. For him to be able to react in that situation and not only save his self, but the lives of others, it’s truly an amazing thing. My condolences and thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends and loved ones who lost someone in that tragedy.”