EDWARDSVILLE — Shawn Roundtree offers the latest proof that sharing the basketball can take a player a long way.
Roundtree, a senior point guard at Edwardsville High School, tops all metro-east players with 8.74 assists a game. Only one other player, in the St. Louis-area, Ladue's Cornell Johnston, has a better average (9.05).
Roundtree also averages 17.4 points, so considering the 23-2 Tigers generate 65.1 points a game in a typical game, Roundtree is involved in better than 55 percent of their output.
The humble three-year starter downplays his role.
"I'm just doing what I can to make plays for myself and my teammates," the 6-foot Roundtree said. "I'm trying to do whatever it takes to win. ... It's been great so far. I've got a great group of teammates. I enjoy every minute of it. I'm trying to make the most out of my senior season."
Long before this season, Roundtree established himself as a prototypical point guard. He averaged nine assists as a junior and 5.9 as a sophomore.
"For a point guard, you have to have great court vision and an awareness of where everyone's going to be at the right time on the floor," Roundtree said. "If you can bring those things together -- the team and point-guard abilities --that will work out fine."
Roundtree wasn't born a point guard, a fact that is difficult to believe after watching him play, oh, one or two times.
Truth be told, he had at least four major influences in his developmental years in parents Shawn Roundtree Sr. and Ida, brother Ismiah, or Ish, and former Edwardsville guard Spencer Stewart, an assistant on coach Mike Waldo's staff the last three years.
Shawn Roundtree Sr. played at Iowa Central Community College, located in Fort Dodge, and at Southern University in New Orleans.
"You'll see my dad at every game in the front row, cheering as loud as he can," the younger Roundtree said. "Everyone sees Mr. Roundtree. He's definitely a great guy and he has a passion for basketball as well. He's always kept me around basketball.
"Also my older brother, who played under Coach Waldo. I had years to just sit and watch how he fit into the system and I learned from what he did and what I could do better."
Waldo appreciates Shawn Roundtree Sr. for his knowledge and keeping his son around the game on a regular bases.
"Mr. Roundtree was a very good player himself," Waldo said. "He's a very good teacher of basketball; he's been a great influence on Shawn. He knows basketball and he's smart about basketball. He's helped a lot of our guys. He's definitely helped Shawn and Ish."
Shawn Roundtree picked up much of Ish's court savvy, but the brothers are anything but alike.
"He was more of a shooting guard," Shawn said. "The main difference between him and I is defense. My brother was a defensive player. Coach Waldo would have him stop the main player on the opposite team every night.
"He definitely inspired me to continue to play defense harder. Defense wins games, point-blank. You never can be too satisfied with your defense. You can always keep getting better."
Waldo acknowledges Ish Roundtree's exceptional defensive skills, but said Shawn isn't far behind in his ability to lock down.
"Ish ended being a good shooter for us," Waldo said. "And he was great on defense. We won a lot of games with him. He was a winner, too. Shawn is smart. He can anticipate things well and he's fast and strong. That's a pretty good combination on defense."
Stewart, a 2006 graduate of Edwardsville, played four seasons at Illinois-Chicago and logged a 1.6-1.0 assist-to-turnover ratio. He was a daily point-guard coach for Roundtree.
"I definitely have to credit all that experience I've gotten, especially under Spencer Stewart," Roundtree said. "When he was here, he was always in my ear, telling me certain plays I could make, certain things to look for, anticipating things before they happened. Spencer Stewart was definitely a great mentor to me."
Waldo said Roundtree and Stewart were good for each other. Stewart had a coachable player in Roundtree and Stewart enjoyed passing on the knowledge he had acquired over the years.
"They had a good relationship," Waldo said. "Spencer is smart and he likes basketball, and he's a good teacher. Shawn is smart and wants to learn basketball. That made him and Spencer a perfect combination. Shawn learned a lot from Spencer and has carried that over into this year. We miss Spencer this year and we wish he was here. But a lot of things he taught the guys have stayed with them."
Point guard vs. post
It's a longtime question: If you were to start a team from scratch, would you want a point guard who can control tempo and make plays for teammates or a center who can dominate the paint?
Both can be major difference-makers, but after watching Roundtree play, it's hard not to believe a point guard is more valuable.
"Shawn is a winner. He competes," Waldo said. "He works hard in preparation, he works hard at his game and he's very competitive once the game starts. Those kind of guys are winners. If I was going to start a team somewhere else, I would want him."
While Roundtree unfailingly recognizes the people who have helped him advance so far, some of the credit belongs to himself. He has taken the knowledge that has been imparted to him and used it to his advantage, electing not to squander the opportunity.
Attending games with his dad and the subsequent conversations that took place soaked into Shawn's brain. Seeing what worked and didn't work for Ish had its benefits, too. The hands-on training with Stewart was icing on the cake. Now Shawn is on his own, and it's working out fine.
"As a point guard, you have to have a great feel for the game, starting off. That's where your IQ develops --when you're younger," Shawn Roundtree said. "I definitely credit my dad because he's always kept me around basketball, sitting me down, watching games, just pinpointing certain things that I could do. Then just growing up, you've got to have passion for the game, especially as a point guard. You've got to develop a certain type of toughness."
Being one of the Tigers' primary scorers, along with Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit Armon Fletcher and senior Trevor Clay, is a new role for Roundtree. Clearly, he's taken to it.
Through Thursday, Roundtree was shooting 54 percent from the field, ranked second to Clay in 3-pointers with 39 and was making 85 percent of his free throws (114-for-134). His 25 points in Edwardsville's 72-57 win at Alton on Friday took him over 1,000 in his career.
"Just my mentality as far as scoring a basket," Roundtree said of his evolution to an offensive threat. "Picking my spots on the floor when I'm going to be able to find the open man or whether I have a shot or not. I've gotten better with experience as far as learning when to score, learning when to make the right pass or even when to back it out and set up the offense at the right time."
Waldo knew Roundtree was ready for the added responsibility.
"He's a better shooter, he's faster with the ball," Waldo said. "He does a good job of reading screens now. A combination of those things along with the fact that this year's team needs him to score more is the reason he has."
Waldo most appreciates Roundtree's playmaking skills, which provides motivation for his teammates to work without the ball.
"A lot of teams have set plays, but it takes a good point guard to make sure you run them well," Waldo said. "Shawn always makes the right pass or the right play. He never makes a selfish play. He always takes what the defense gives him, and that's a great trait that he has.
"He also does a good job anticipating things as they're going to happen. His timing is excellent because he practices well every day. When somebody comes open, he has the ball in the right place. ... It helps in basketball to cut well when you know you're going to get (the ball). Our guys do a good job of cutting well because they know he's going to find them."
Naturally, Roundtree is garnering more and more attention from college programs on the heels of his on-court success.
The most recent school to come into the picture is Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Salukis coach Barry Hinson watched Roundtree on Jan. 31 at Belleville West, where the Tigers won 69-59.
"They're new to the game," Roundtree said of the interest from the Salukis. "Coach Hinson stated that there may be a situation where they may jump into my recruiting. I just have to be patient and see what happens."
Roundtree said he also has received interest from Navy, Furman, Missouri-Kansas City and Indiana State.
"A lot of mid-majors right now," said Roundtree, adding that he previously shunned an offer from SIU-Edwardsville because it "wanted an answer quickly."
"So far, the recruitment process hasn't been too stressful," he said. "I'm enjoying it. I'm taking my time and I'm going to make a decision and pick the school that's best for me. I don't like to take on too much stress or put too much in my mind at one time. I just kind of deal with things as they come, deal with things in the moment."
For now, that means helping the Tigers earn a repeat trip to the Class 4A state tournament. Edwardsville placed third last season.
"I'm focused on what I need to do and what my team needs to do to win," Roundtree said. "We've just got to stay persistent. Come to practice every day, keep working harder. This is when we're going to need (everyone). Everything needs to come together right now. We've got to keep progressing. If we can do that, we should be fine."