It's mid-May, and Landry Shamet is preparing for the beginning of his life.
Well, the beginning of his NBA life, at least.
In Chicago at the NBA Draft Combine, the 6'5", 190-pound guard has spent the past few days trying to dispel concerns over his ability to defend both backcourt spots in the pros. Then he'll pack his bags to return to Thousand Oaks, California, where he spent a month-and-a-half chasing around De'Aaron Fox and fine-tuning his offensive tools at Sports Academy HQ. From there, he'll spend the next few weeks living out of his luggage, going city-to-city showcasing his skills and interviewing for NBA teams.
If all goes according to plan—B/R's Jonathan Wasserman projects him to be selected early in the second round—Shamet will be the fourth player from Wichita State to make it to the NBA since 2014. And there's reason to believe he could be one of the best-fitting prospects the program has produced.
While he didn't have many chances to showcase his athleticism while playing off the ball and firing into open spaces at Wichita State, he did show that he may be the draft's best shooter. He shot 44.2 percent from three-point range last season, which could make him a prized asset in an NBA now built on floor spacing.
And with a toughness that runs through the bloodlines of those recruited by the Shockers, it's easy to see why Shamet should hear NBA Commissioner Adam Silver call his name on June 21.
Until then, there are myriad things he can't control and just as many that could be going through his head. However, he seemed at peace amid the run-up to the draft. He took time out during the combine to ask his Twitter followers what they considered to be the best barbecue spot in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. His personal preference, Joe's, was the easy favorite over three other selections.
To understand Shamet's level of calm during one of the most chaotic times in life for any prospect, you need to understand what brought him to this point.
His grandfather, Dennis, had to tell him only once when he was a child to keep his elbow under the ball on his shot. ("From there," Shamet says, "I never had my elbow out.") His mother, Melanie, would ring her arms into a hoop so he could shoot during halftimes of his uncle's basketball games at Park Hill High School, which Shamet would later attend. With the help of some steady guidance from teammates Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall pushed him to learn and improve despite his redshirting as a freshman and suffering injuries to both of his feet.
From when he first began walking at nearly 10 months old, Melanie never had to worry much about her son.
"I kept waiting for the day where I might have payback for how [difficult a child] I was growing up," she says. "It just never happened."
Behind Shamet is a mother who wouldn't allow for excuses even though she suffered the financial struggles all too familiar for many single parents. She has worked at Harrah's Casino for as long as Landry has been alive. With his developing schedule, there isn't a shift there she hasn't worked. Her family watched over him when she needed to pick up double shifts and overtime.
"When I was being recruited, she actually took another role at Harrah's, so if I went far away, she could see all of my games," Shamet says. "That's the type of selfless person she is. That's why she's my motivation, because of how she's always put me first."
When Marshall began recruiting Shamet, he knew he was getting a young man with maturity beyond his years. There were times in middle school when Melanie would work nights and Landry would be tasked with not only completing his homework, but also preparing himself dinner and getting to bed on time. That maturity allowed Marshall to put the same faith in Shamet as he did with VanVleet and Baker.
"You don't have to worry about those guys making bad choices," Marshall told B/R. "You need those guys to go to class, be good people, work on their games, and that's what they did."
And with Shamet, Marshall soon realized: "We weren't getting a kid that was just drifting. Landry's always known what he's wanted, and he's always worked to achieve that."
He also soon came to understand what he had in Shamet as a player.
When Shamet notched a 20-point performance in a 2017 second-round NCAA tournament loss to Fox's Kentucky squad, Marshall felt everyone else would start catching on to how good he was. Last December's 30-point outing in a road win against Oklahoma State confirmed it.
Melanie, of course, had seen it for a lot longer. She remembers how Landry always told her that he was going to the NBA. She knew he was talented and never discouraged him from his aspirations, but she always thought the odds were too small to be a sure thing.
When he began hearing the buzz after the loss to Kentucky and noticed an increase in scouts in the stands, he never allowed his mind to drift from his responsibilities at Wichita State last year.
"I thought that would be unfair to my teammates, coaches and the fans of Wichita State," Shamet said.
After allowing himself a few days to process the Shockers' first-round upset loss to Marshall in this year's tournament, Shamet knew he had gained all he had needed from the program and made the decision to declare for the draft.
He mentioned helping make life a little easier for his mom as playing a role in his decision. For her part, she's proud of her work in helping him have better opportunities than she had, and she only wants him to have what he's worked hard for. Of all the things Shamet has to be proud of, he's most happy with how he was raised.
"No matter how great of a basketball player someone feels I am, I will argue that I'm a better person," he says. "That's my mom speaking through me."
There will be tears from Melanie on June 21. But as it was when he left home for Wichita, she won't have to worry about him.
"Landry's always known what he's wanted, and he's always worked to achieve that," Marshall says. "All he wants to do is be a great player and provide for his family."
Christopher Cason is a Chicago-based writer. He's written for GQ, SLAM magazine and The Athletic. Follow him on Twitter: @C4DUNK.