ATLANTA (Dec. 6) – Now that Georgia Tech’s Shaun Fein has made the climb from Division II Stonehill College to the Atlantic Coast Conference, he recalled his high school days, when he was going around ladders instead of climbing up them.
“Every day before school I would meet my high school coach in the gym at 6 a.m.,” said Fein, the 6-3, 205-pound junior who hails from Centerville, Mass., on Cape Cod. “He’d set up a ladder to simulate coming off screens. I’d have to brush off the ladder and get my jump shot off. We used to work on that a lot.”
Fein and the Yellow Jackets face arch-rival Georgia Wednesday in Athens (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net South) and then host third-ranked Stanford Saturday at 12:30 p.m. (ESPN) at Philips Arena in the Delta Air Lines Classic for Kids.
At a robust 165 pounds as a high school senior, Fein didn’t attract too much attention from Division I schools, so he enrolled at Stonehill in Easton, Mass.
“I think people were scared off by my size,” said Fein, who prepped at Barnstable High. “They didn’t think I was strong enough to handle Division I. I gained about 20 pounds in my two years at Stonehill, and since I’ve been here, I’ve added another 20.”
Fein did more than lift weights in his two seasons at Stonehill. As a sophomore, he averaged 19.7 points, 4.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals to earn NABC Regional All-America honors. He became the first sophomore to earn Northeast-10 Conference Player of the Year honors since future NBA standout Mario Elie did so in 1983 for American International.
Fein’s route to Atlanta stemmed from his friendship with Tech’s Jon Babul (North Attleboro, Mass.), his AAU teammate in Massachusetts.
“After my freshman year at Stonehill, I was in Atlanta visiting Jon,” recalled Fein. “I played some pickup ball with the guys, and I got to know Drew Barry. He thought I was a good ballplayer, and we kept in touch.
“After my sophomore year, I got my release from Stonehill. Coach Cremins asked some of the guys about me-Drew, Stephon Marbury, Matt Harpring-and I guess they gave me a good recommendation, because here I am.”
Those former Yellow Jackets must have known a good thing when they saw it because Fein has quickly made an impact as a starter in the Tech backcourt.
“It’s been a pretty big adjustment, but it’s exciting,” said Fein, who is one of five Tech starters averaging in double figures with 11.4 points per game, along with 3.6 assists and 2.6 steals. He ranks second in the ACC with 2.4 three-pointers per game.
“The first couple of games I was a little nervous, playing in front of big crowds and national television. This is what I’ve always wanted to do, so now that I’m here, I’ve got to make the best of it.
“The players here obviously are a lot more talented and more athletic, but I’ve been playing against those kind of players all my life, so it wasn’t overwhelming. But things like our locker room, the hotels we stay in, the arenas we play in . . . that was a bigger surprise than the level of play. At Stonehill we had to buy our own shoes.”
Fein’s offensive abilities were evident as he practiced with the Jackets last year, but he admits that his biggest challenge will be on defense.
“At this level, there are so many quick players and so many guys who can shoot the ball really well,” he said. “I think you have to be smart on defense, not necessarily the most athletic or the quickest.” Fein knew he had arrived in big-time basketball last week when Tech hosted Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
“I was a big Michigan fan growing up,” said Fein, who had 16 points, five rebounds and three assists against the Wolverines. “I lived there when I was younger and spent some summers there, so I had all kinds of Michigan gear. Looking across the court during warmups and seeing the Michigan uniform, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really here.'”