Triple threat: University senior Shane Skidmore takes on tennis after successful football, basketball seasons

May 2—At 6-foot-8 with a football player's physique, University High School senior Shane Skidmore stands out everywhere he goes. He especially stands out on the tennis court, where he is routinely 8 or more inches taller and 60 pounds heavier than his opponent.

But this is the first spring since his freshman year he hasn't played club basketball, so he came out for the tennis team for the first time. He's played the game since he was a kid, but this was his first time playing competitively for his school. Not only did he make varsity, but he's been the team's No. 1 singles player all season with a 5-4 record in individual matches.

Not too bad for a first timer.

"Tennis is, you know, my third sport — just to have fun finally after two hard seasons of basketball and football," he said after winning his match against Ridgeline on Tuesday. "Having the guys support me feels great. I feel like I can can help the team and make a contribution somewhere else and for a lesser-known sport that doesn't get as much attention usually."

"I've told him a couple times this year that it breaks my heart that he didn't come out in his sophomore, junior years," U-Hi assistant coach Rob David said. "He's just a great leader. He's one of those kind of guys that has no problem spending a little bit of time with some of our newer or less-experienced players. He's just a really nice kid. He's just got a good heart, and he has time for everybody."

Watching Skidmore play, his size and athleticism immediately stand out. But a closer looks shows how much planning and strategy plays into his game. That shouldn't be surprising though — Skidmore was U-Hi's boys scholar-athlete of the year.

"It's a lot of mental stuff (on the court)," Skidmore said. "Like, how you serve, how hard you try to hit your first serve in, and where you aim when you rush the net. You've got to be always thinking and try to outsmart your opponent."

"You're going to be hard pressed to find anybody who's got more of an emotional intelligence, and an ability just to be to be more mature than your normal 17-18 year old kid," David said. "He's more mature than a lot of adults that I know."

The responsibility of playing No. 1 singles is different than what Skidmore felt on the football field or basketball court. Though he has a winning record this season, he has also run into players that play club tennis year-round.

"No. 1 is kind of a sacrifice," he said. "Some schools have really good No. 1s where tennis is their only sport. I've lost 0-6, 0-6 two or three times to dudes that are just crazy good."

"We're deep, but we don't have that type of club player," David said. "It's bothered his ego a little bit. But in all honesty, I think it's kind of good for him a little bit. But of all the kids I've known, he takes it well. ... He's a great kid who comes from a really great family and I'm glad he came out even if it was just for one year."

Skidmore, who could have played tight end at the Division I level, sustained an ankle injury early in his senior football season, which was one of several factors that helped him decide to pursue basketball at the next level.

He was "all football" into his junior year. But he started playing on Dan Dickau's club team following his sophomore season, and that transformed his game and helped open his eyes to the possibility of playing college basketball.

"I was like, 'Ooh, I can go play on a travel basketball team with Dan Dickau?' " Skidmore said. "Then after I injured my ankle I was like, 'Man, I'm a little too tall for football, a little too skinny. I'm not quite thick enough."

Skidmore was called up to varsity basketball at the end of his sophomore season, but Dickau had not seen him play before joining his team.

"We knew we needed another player, especially a big," Dickau said. "At that time, he was still a little hesitant because he was a pretty darn good football player. ...He saw himself improving rapidly and really loving basketball a lot more than he liked football. He wanted to get where he had better opportunities."

Dickau said sometimes tall players take a little more time to develop, but that Skidmore has been one of the hardest working high school players he has worked with.

"With the skill development that we would do in practice, all the work he would put with our coaching staff at Shoot 360, and all the extra effort and time he would put in on his own, it's been pretty cool to see his improvement and development as a player. ...He's kind of a gentle giant figuring out just how good he can be and how strong he can be with his presence on the court."

Skidmore's grades are good enough that he could consider Ivy League schools if he wanted.

"Academics has always been my main focus," he said. "I've been raised by two great parents who really have made me work in math and science and reading. Academics are and have always been a big part of who I am. It's not very hard to do your homework when you're used to working out and going to practice and just trying to manage your time around that."

Another thing he's proud of is earning the rank of Eagle Scout in eighth grade. His final project was to revitalize an abandoned industrial park by planting trees.

"We wanted to reintroduce some native plants into an area that was was previously devastated from construction," he said. "I liked scouting. I like camping. I'm not really active anymore, scouts just kind of faded out of my life. But it was a big part."

Skidmore earned early admittance to the University of Washington engineering program with a preferred walk-on spot for basketball — and he has other possibilities he's still exploring. He averaged more than 15 points and 10 rebounds per game this year with the Titans, earning a spot on the all-Greater Spokane League first team.

"I'm happy with with the options I have now," he said. "Playing basketball at U-Dub would be awesome. But I'm trying to get in contact with some other schools just to see what I can get. But yeah, that's probably my my first option right now."

He has time to make a decision, though, as Skidmore will participate in a two-year mission in Honduras before entering college — like his father and siblings before him.

"It's what I think is right," he said. "It's two years where you're not focusing on yourself — you're trying to help others and and see the world in a part that lives in extreme poverty and people that that need help — real people who are doing their best but are just at a disadvantage."