Panther chases shadows High schools: Although he's constantly compared to former St. Frances teammate Mark Karcher, Shawn Hampton has emerged as a standout player in his own right.

January 27, 1998|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

It takes a nice-sized person to eclipse St. Frances All-Metro forward Shawn Hampton, a sinewy 6 feet 8 and 215 pounds.

Yet after almost every game -- "especially the big ones," said Hampton's senior teammate, David Manigault -- Hampton always finds himself in the shadow of his 6-5 former teammate Mark Karcher.

"They'll bring Mark's name into it, and that's good, in a way, that they're comparing Shawn to Mark Karcher because they're both great players," said Manigault, referring to The Sun's two-time All-Metro Player of the Year, who is sitting out his first season at Temple.

"But it's time to give Shawn credit for what he's done this year, and it's time to give this team credit for what we've done," Manigault added. "We're the defending [Catholic League] champs, and Shawn's the key to us winning another championship. Shawn's an unbelievable player."

Others feel the same way about the Panthers senior. Representatives from Virginia Commonwealth, Penn State, Hampton University, Florida State, Duquesne, Coppin State and Seton Hall all have made formal visits to Hampton's home, and others such as George Washington, West Virginia, Rutgers, St. John's, Providence and Texas A&M have maintained correspondence or phoned.

Hampton said he'll consider all offers carefully, seeking counsel from predecessors such as Karcher, Dunbar's Rodney Elliott (Maryland), Lake Clifton's Shawnta Rogers (George Washington) and two area natives playing professionally abroad -- Devin Gray (St. Frances/Clemson) and Bernard Hopkins (Overlea/Virginia Commonwealth).

"They're guys who've done the right thing. I'll even talk to Keith Booth [Maryland/Chicago Bulls] if he comes back around," said Hampton, who is averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots. "I'm going to take as long as I need to, talk it over with my mother and make the right choice for me."

One of three seniors back for the Panthers, Hampton has endured the college recruiting wars while leading a young, talented team to a 10-4 mark .

Unlike last season, when Karcher and Calvert Hall's Juan Dixon, now at Maryland, made their teams the class of the league, this year's league is more balanced.

"We're the champs, on paper, but no one's giving us our props, so it's been like we're not even the champs," Manigault said. "So for Shawn, being the leader, it's a lot of pressure. There's a lot of pressure for the entire team."

Already the focus, athletically, Hampton is dealing with more serious burdens as well, having lost his father, Douglass Hampton, who died in a car accident when Shawn was 14.

"I lost my best friend when I lost my father. He played ball with me all the time, came to all my games," said Hampton, who began playing at the age of 8, and has participated in the Thomas C. Hayes and Oliver recreation programs.

"It hurts when Father's Day comes around, my birthday in March, his birthday in September or when I see other kids, after our games, they run over and get hugs from their fathers," said Hampton, 17. "The pain's always there, but I'm dealing with it."

While there's no lack of heart in Hampton, one of the nation's most highly recruited players, there's at least one aspect of his game that could improve, St. Frances coach William Wells said.

"When it's single coverage, Shawn has no problem taking someone to the hole, going deep into double-figure scoring. But most games, it's everybody triple-teaming him in the game, so I want him to work more on finding the open man," Wells said.

"What I want him to concentrate on is not worrying about scoring so much as getting more rebounds, more assists. Give me four or five triple doubles," Wells continued. "Shawn's in great shape, gets up and down the court real well. And it's best for him to be on the move, because certain teams will sag on us defensively, and he's handled that pretty well the last few games."

Some of those aspects of Hampton's game were on display in the Panthers' recent 50-42 victory over Spalding, when he had a game-high 17 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots.

Though up against Spalding's 7-foot Derrick Goode, Hampton's movement away from the ball drew attention not only from the Cavaliers' backcourt, but also the frontcourt, allowing guards Demetrius Charles and Todd Galloway to capitalize with critical three-pointers.

Hampton's short jumper in a seesaw battle had the Panthers up 41-40 with 2: 35 to play, and he also made some subtle contributions to St. Frances' game-sealing 8-0 run. By moving outside, Hampton helped to clear the lane of traffic for a driving layup by Manigault. By going up for a put-back, he was fouled and converted both free throws.

"Mark used to be the one who calmed the team down in big situations. Now, I guess I'm doing that," Hampton said. "Other than that, I don't see my role as having changed that much. I still have to be on the boards, grabbing rebounds, hustling out there. I just might need to score a little more at times."

Manigault puts it more bluntly.

"Shawn wants to be the best, and if it takes yelling at you or whatever, then he's going to get on you and get you into the same frame of mind," Manigault said. "He's a very vocal person, and he's good at speaking his mind. I think that's going to take him a long way."

Pub Date: 1/27/98

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