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Life more than basketball for Preble Shawnee sensation

As a member of the National Honor Society, Shrout and many of his fellow students help with blood drives, make and send Valentines Day cards to nursing homes on Eaton and monitor and enjoy little kids at the bouncy houses at Camden’s annual Black Walnut Festival.

For three years, Shrout has been a member of the school’s chapter of Hope Squad, a suicide prevention organization that trains students to help others experiencing a mental health crisis. Shrout has had the opportunity outside of school to put his training to work and encourage a couple of people.

“It just made me a better person all around,” Shrout said. “I learned how to treat people with respect and have empathy for them.”

One way he serves his church, Christ Commission Temple in Camden, is helping with games during Vacation Bible School.

“When I’m volunteering I realize that there’s people that are not as fortunate as I am to come from a great family and come from a great community,” Shrout said. “Even if it’s just something very simple, I would say it’s important to be involved in a bunch of stuff just because you learn lessons about life and about yourself.”

In the middle of all Shrout does, he finds lots of time for basketball. A lot more than those outside his inner circles of family, friends and team could fathom. His passion for the game that rubs off on his teammates is a driving force behind why Preble Shawnee will play in its first state tournament this week.

The Arrows (24-3) won a second straight Western Ohio Athletic Conference title, a second straight district title and a regional title after losing at that stage last year. They will play in the Division III semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Friday at UD Arena as a decided underdog against defending champion Cleveland Heights Lutheran East (21-5).

The seeds of this tournament run began when Shrout played in the YMCA league when he was 4, 5 and 6. When he was 5 and at his grandpa’s house watching Kentucky play, he made an announcement.

“I looked at my mom and I told her I wanted to play Division I basketball,” Shrout said. “At that time, she was kind of like, ‘OK, whatever.’”

From the second through fourth grade he worked religiously on ballhandling skills, getting help from his dad. Going into seventh grade he began to work on his jump shot and adapt a more grown-up shooting form.

All the while he had to access to gyms because his mom ran the Preble portion of Dayton Metro Basketball and a phys ed teacher at the elementary let him use the gym. He also has a full half-court concrete floor in a large barn on the family’s 22-acre home. Every morning and every night, once his assigned chores were complete, Shrout worked on basketball until it got too cold.

When Jake Turner came to interview for the head coaching job in June after Shrout’s freshman season, he saw Shrout leading about a dozen players from middle school age to seniors in workouts in the gym. Turner was impressed and knew he might get what every coach wants: a player-led team.

“He’s helped form the culture here,” Turner said. “Guys know what it takes now. I think it starts with him.”

Shrout’s leadership grew out of the potential he saw in himself and his friends to lift the program higher than it had been.

“I wanted to win — simple as that,” Shrout said. “Preble Shawnee basketball means a lot in this community. It’s going to make this community prouder.”

They are proud of Shrout’s accomplishments. He’s a 6-foot-5 senior who averages 24.1 points a game and is the only player in Preble County history to score more than 2,000 points. He’s a two-time Southwest District Division III player of the year. He was a Mr. Basketball finalist this year. He will play Division I basketball next year at Purdue-Fort Wayne in the Horizon League.

After home games, Shrout stays in the gym fist-bumping and talking to the young boys who, Turner says, want to be like Shrout. He signs autographs as long as it takes.

“Mason doesn’t know anybody else is around,” said athletic director Dane Sadowski, “Because he’s so locked into that conversation that he’s having with that kid. It’s just awesome to see.”

Sometimes Shrout doesn’t want to be in the gym. He wants to be hunting with his dad or fishing with his dad, mom and brother Cooper, who is a sophomore on the team.

When Shrout was 6 he used a bow to kill his first deer on the family property, and he’s gotten one every year since. And he goes striper fishing two or three times a year on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky.

“I’ll never be able to forget it,” Shrout said of his first deer. “Ever since then I fell in love with hunting and fishing. It’s just something peaceful for me.”

This week, however, there is no peace. There’s the state tournament to prepare for. But after that, life will go on for Shrout in Hope Squad, at his church, with his family and, of course, in the gym.

“I want my boy to grow up to be like him,” Turner says of 4-year-old Evan. “I hope he’s a great basketball player that does all these great things.”