Pursuit of perfection: Gym rat O’Shaughnessey a player to deal with

When Stratford officials think about it, they might send the O’Shaughnessey family another bill before the school year is out.

As much time as David O’Shaughnessey has spent at the school’s gym during the past four years, charging a little rent might not be out of line.

“The first game of the year, he scored 42 points,” head coach John Paul Gaddy said. “He went 6-of-10 from the line. And he was in the gym for an hour after the game shooting free throws.

“He waited for everybody to leave, (then) said, ‘Can I have a ball?’ ”

The results of that quasi-obsession transformed O’Shaughnessey into a “that’s the guy we gotta stop” player for opponents and into the All-Middle Georgia Independent Schools boys player of the year.

Take earlier this week, when O’Shaughnessey was called on to don the uniform again for pictures. The good part was obvious: He got to shoot around a little bit and exchange wisecracks with Gaddy.

“He’s a (Georgia) Tech fan,” O’Shaughnessey said. “We argue a lot.”

But his former head coach knows what kind of player he had, one who scored 1,002 points in his final two years of high school, shot 53.6 percent overall and 34.8 percent from 3-point range in his 98-game career. He’s in the top 10 at Stratford in games (sixth), points, (sixth), shots made (ninth), 3-pointers made (third), 3-point accuracy (ninth) and free-throw percentage (ninth).

Despite being the focal point of defenses, O’Shaughnessey improved on his overall and 3-point shooting from his junior to senior seasons. The 6-foot-3 guard is just as comfortable shooting from 19 feet as 23 feet, but he worked on other parts of his game.

“Pull-up jump shot and better decision-making,” he said of what he wanted to improve on the most entering the season. “I worked on my mid-range game. There were times my junior year I saw that I needed it.”

O’Shaughnessey is more than just a gifted basketball player. He has been part of Stratford’s highly successful soccer program and just picked up another sport, track and field.

With almost no practice, he has finished second and first in the first two meets of his track career in high jump. But there’s pressure: He competes against younger brother Becker, so being first among the O’Shaughnesseys may be more important than beating outside competition.

Clearly, energy isn’t a problem.

“We had to run a lot to get in shape for soccer,” O’Shaughnessey said about the start of his senior year. “We won the state championship, and that helped carry over into basketball. So I came into the season in good shape.”

That in itself may be hereditary.

His father John was a good tennis player, and older brother Will was a standout soccer player at Stratford who decided to play basketball as a senior and started. Becker, a freshman, is one of the state’s top youth tennis players, as well as being on the track team.

O’Shaughnessey won’t have to travel far to continue his career. He committed to Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman on Tuesday, a day after deciding to accept the offer to join the team as a preferred walk-on. O’Shaughnessey will receive an academic scholarship, so Hoffman can’t comment on the addition, and O’Shaughnessey won’t count against the Bears’ scholarship limit.

He’s already familiar with his future teammates, playing pickup with Bears. In fact, it was just such a game last year, Gaddy said, that showed O’Shaughnessey that he could play on a higher level.

Gaddy already knew that and said Mercer is getting a rarity: the player who is defined as a scorer and shooter but who has a pure basketball and winning mentality.

“We were playing Mount de Sales in the region tournament,” Gaddy said. “They were face-guarding him, straight deny the ball. They went straight denial on him, and everybody helped every time he cut.

“We’re up maybe four or six early in the first quarter, and he comes over and says, ‘Listen, if I run the offense, I’m going to clog stuff up. Can I go stand in the corner?’ Completely sacrificed himself.

“That’s the difference with a senior, when the team really does become the most important thing. That’s David.”

Hinson said mentally is where O’Shaughnessey has made a huge jump. A year ago, he faced one box-and-one defense. As a senior, he regularly saw that, as well as a triangle-and-two.

“He was an incredible scorer, but his basketball IQ just grew,” Hinson said. “He became a ballhandler. He became a basketball player instead of a scorer. His basketball IQ is unbelievable.”

ESPN helps feed O’Shaughnessey’s addiction to the game.

“He’s a gym rat, he’s a basketball freak,” Hinson said. “During basketball, he goes straight home and watches ‘Big Monday’ and ‘Super Tuesday’ and the ESPN shows.”

Gaddy is a basketball junkie himself, so coaching somebody like O’Shaughnessey was a joy, one he’ll get to continue to have in a different role with O’Shaughnessey at Mercer.

“The mistake people make, especially in high school, is they’ll say, ‘Yeah, he’s good,’” Gaddy said. “Well, there’s a reason. You don’t shoot that consistently from that range if you don’t work at it, and he really works at it.

“He just loves the game.”