Schecker: One last thank you to NU’s graduating all-time leading scorers

Justin Schecker

With the announcement that Bradley Hamm will become the next dean of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communication, there is a buzz among the J-School’s sports junkies that Medill may finally offer sports journalism courses in the near future.

After all, Hamm has a background in sports reporting and he established the first master’s degree program in sports journalism while serving as the dean of Indiana University’s journalism school.

Even though the only sports-related course I took at Northwestern was in the School of Communication, I had ample opportunities to merge my passions for sports and journalism during the past four years.

My sports journalism experience at NU has been so rewarding mainly because of the tremendous student-athletes I’ve had the chance to cover, including two members of my graduating class who will leave Evanston with some pretty impressive school records.

The first time I interviewed Shannon Smith was actually for the audio story component of my multimedia final project for one of Medill’s introductory courses. I decided to profile the freshman class and ask them about the expectations of joining a program that had won the previous four NCAA Championships.

I talked to the three Wildcats that went on to play significant minutes as freshmen in NU’s “drive for five” – Smith, Alex Frank and Lacey Vigmostad.

After wrapping up the interviews, former NU associate sports information director Rand Champion told me to especially keep an eye on Smith because she was a special talent.

Well, Champion was right. Not only did Smith help the Cats add three more championship trophies to NU’s collection, she won her sport’s player of the year award in her junior season.

Then as a senior, she passed the likes of Wildcat greats Hilary Bowen and Kristen Kjellman to become the most prolific goal scorer in program history.

In addition to Smith, hopefully, the NU men’s basketball all-time leading scorer will also be present at some of my college reunions.

After John Shurna sunk the game winning three-pointer at home against Ohio State with 3.3 seconds left on February 18, 2009, the lanky, baby-faced freshman was like a deer in headlights at the post-game press conference. Never would I have guessed at the time that four years later Shurna would finish his career as the face of NU basketball.

Shurna never did become much better during interviews or lead the Cats to the college basketball’s “Promised Land,” but he helped make the past four years of NU hoops arguably the most exciting in school history.

When I arrived on campus, I was told NU players don’t dunk. John Shurna’s high flying abilities and emphatic throw-downs have certainly helped changed that reputation. Shurna’s six-foot-eight frame matched with his accurate line-drive three-point shot made him one of the most versatile scorers in the Big Ten and the country.

Now that he’s no longer an active member of the Cats, hopefully the basketball gods will look down more favorably on Shurna and his name will be called in the second round of the NBA draft later this month.

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