SUDBURY, Ont. Every year Laurentian University students and members of the Sudbury community make the trip to the
Ben Avery Gymnasium to cheer on the Laurentian Lady Vees and Voyageurs basketball teams. On their way into the gym everyone
walks by a framed team Canada basketball jersey with the number eight on it. This jersey belonged to Shawn Swords, a five
year standout for the Voyageurs Shawn Swords. A native of Ottawa, Ontario; he played for the Voyageurs from 1992 to 1997 and
has since travelled to Europe to play professional basketball as well as been a member of Canada's national basketball team.
The Glory Days as a Laurentian Voyageur
From 1992 to 1997, Shawn Swords was a major part of the Laurentian
Voyageurs success. Under the guidance of Peter Campbell, Shawn developed into one of the premier players in the OUA and CIAU,
as it was know at the time. In four out of his five years at Laurentian he was named a first or a second team OUA East all-star
as well as being named a 2nd team All-Canadian in his final season.
In his second season with the Voyageurs he was
part of a team that didn't receive a lot of respect around the league, but were able to advance to the Nationals and almost
pulled off the upset. "We had some good teams there, on and off the court" replied Shawn when asked about other memorable
moments at Laurentian. "One of my most memorable moments, but not really a positive one would have to be my last game in the
National semi-finals where we lost to Mac."
When you talk to the many Laurentian basketball fans they will tell you
that the 1996-1997 Voyageurs team were comprised of a special group of players. They were a close knit group that still remain
that way today. Many of these players still keep in touch and get to see each other at least once a year.
a successful student athlete at Laurentian and we asked him if he had any advice for current/potential student athletes and
he had this to say, "Set up a schedule for yourself. A lot of being a student is time management. There is enough time in
the week for you to give ample time to your studies and your chosen sport."
After Shawn left Laurentian he had the
opportunity to play against a former Laurentian team-mate of his, Ted Donglemans. "We played each other in an exhibition game
when he was playing for Boncourt and I was with Besancon" stated Shawn when asked about playing against former LU team-mates.
"We lived about an hour away so it was great to have a former player so close. Rarely do you have such a good friend so close."Swords
Finds New Home in Europe
Over the past 8 years, Shawn and Shelley have lived in five different European countries,
including England, Switzerland, Italy, Finland and France. From 1997 to 1998 Shawn played for the Worthing Bears who competed
in the England Bud League, as it was known at that time and for the next two years he played for Boncourt of the Switzerland
LNA league. Shawn also spent two seasons in Italy where he was a member of Roseto of the Italy Leg A league for 2001 to 2002
and Senfati of the Italy Legadue league for 2002-2003. During the 2003-2004 season Shawn played in the Finland Sparliiga for
Joensuu Kataja and while in France he played for Besancon of the France Pro "A" league during the 2000-2001 season and Mulhouse
of the France Pro "B" league from 2004-current.
"My favourite place to play was definitely Bancourt, Switzerland. The
team was good and I got to play with two members of the national team, Deon George and Dwight Walton" said Shawn. "Also, the
fans are bar none the best in Europe."
In his first game as a professional Shawn had 33 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists
and 6 steals and hasn't looked back since. Some other highlights from his career thus far in Europe include reaching the semi-finals
and qualifying for the European Cup as a member of Boncourt as well as leading the league in Finland in steals and being second
in assists. Another highlight in Europe also came in Finland where in a playoff game, Shawn was one rebound shy of a triple
double, as well as one assist shy of tying the record for most assists in a playoff game ever. He finished the game with 25
points, 14 assists, and 9 rebounds and, most importantly, the team won the game. The biggest of these accomplishments also
came in Finland where he was named European Player of the year for 2003-2004.
"The key to my success is without a
doubt hard work and never saying quit" stated Shawn. I have been in some tough situations and I keep at it."
are very few people that could argue with that. Since leaving Laurentian Shawn has spent many hours working on his game, some
of it alone and some of it training with the Sudbury Selects. His summers have never necessarily been a vacation as even when
school stopped he continued to work hard on his game during the summer months.
When asked if he had any advice for
Canadian players who are looking to try to play in Europe Shawn had this to say "Just try and get something, anything over
in Europe for a year or two and use the time wisely to improve your game. I did and it helped me elevate it to a level where
I could make the National team. Before playing in Europe I don't know if I could have gotten enough experience after university
to improve as a player." Team Canada's #8 Shawn Swords
All of Shawn's hard work and time playing in
Europe has paid off. He has been a member of Canada's national basketball team for 5 years and as a result was able to participate
in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. "The qualifying tournament, the summer before and then the summer training leading
up to the Olympics were a great experience" replied Shawn when asked about playing at the Olympics. "Then to have the games
actually fulfill and go beyond anything you could possibly imagine made it that much more special."
As a member of
the national team Shawn had the opportunity to play under the tutelage of current Toronto Raptors assistant coach Jay Triano.
Triano was predominantly an offensive player when he played but has been instrumental in teaching Shawn a lot on the defensive
side of the game. "Jay is a great coach, he's taught me a lot about basketball and about being a good person" said Shawn.
Shawn and Triano hold a lot of respect for each other. In fact, in 2000 Triano called Shawn a tenacious defender who does
not have any quit in him. "It's always good to hear a coach compliment you and it helped me gain confidence at the international
level as well" replied Shawn when asked about the quote.
In his five years with the national team he has also had
the good fortune to play with NBA star Steve Nash, who was the go to guy when Shawn was part of the Olympic team. If the team
needed a three pointer, Nash would hit the shot or get someone wide open for it. If the team needed an easy basket inside
Steve would either call his own number or set somebody up for the dunk. This play has rubbed off on Shawn and has helped to
make him develop his game, both offensively and defensively. Playing with a player of the calibre of Steve Nash can only help
a player develop more.
"He is a great player" replied Shawn when asked about playing with Nash. "He doesn't see himself
as a superstar and doesn't command anything special, only to be part of the team. On and off the court he is one of the most
unselfish players/people you will ever meet."
Much like the relationship between Triano and Shawn, there is a mutual
respect between him and Steve Nash. In 2000 Nash called Shawn a leader and a tremendous player for the national team. "That's
the role I saw myself fitting into with the National team and I was happy to do whatever the team needs me to do to win" stated
Shawn when asked about Nash's comments.
Shawn went on to say, "It is a tremendous to have two of the best players
ever in Canada say such flattering things about me. I have a lot of respect for both Steve and Jay for what they have done
for Basketball in Canada and selfishly what they have done for me." Beyond the Game
Shawn, son of Martin
and Bev Swords, is one of four very athletic siblings. Both of his sisters Janet and Carolyn were members of university basketball
teams, with Janet splitting her time between McGill and Ottawa and Carolyn playing right here at Laurentian. Shawn's brother
Tim chose a different route, siding with the game of hockey instead of basketball. Like his brother, Tim continues to be involved
with the sport he grew up playing as the manager of the Corel Centre. Currently, Shawn resides in Mulhouse, France with his
wife Shelley, who also played basketball for Laurentian, and their dog Scoobie. However, they do spend their summer months
in Sudbury where they have a home.
At some point in his career Shawn will have to make the tough decision of whether
to continue playing the sport he loves or to retire. With all his experience at various levels of the sport and having played
against some of the best players in the world there will be many options available to him.
"I can see myself coaching
at some level. I know and read the game well" said Shawn when asked about his life after his playing days. "I have had the
pleasure to be coached by Jay Triano, Peter Campbell and Dave Smart who have taught me a lot about the game. If I pick up
just a little from each of them I will be a good coach at the very worst!"
In closing Shawn was asked if there was
anything he would like to add and this is what he had to say, "My coach at Laurentian was Peter Campbell and to me he gave
our teams at Laurentian an identity, one that we could always win if we played hard. I still carry that attitude with me every
where I play."
Laurentian University Athletic Department