BY JACOB FIERMAN
The hockey player skates down the ice with blazing speed. He dodges one defender, avoids another, and comes face to face with the final man, the goalie. The player cocks back and fires a shot only to have it blocked by CCHS’s premiere goalie.
As the basketball team sprints down the court, every player tries to get open on the fast break. With the point guard dribbling up the middle of the court, he makes a crisp pass to the cutting big man. The big center goes up with the ball and makes his layup, putting two points on the board for CCHS.
In these two sports scenarios, one top CCHS athlete is responsible for both. Senior Branden Shafmaster is not only an outstanding hockey goalie but is an incredible basketball player as well. One may ask, what’s so difficult about playing two sports? Well imagine being a key player on both varsity teams during the same winter sports season.
Sports have always been a major part of Shafmaster’s life. He began playing hockey at the age of five and fell in love from the moment he laced up his skates.
“When I was a kid I only played hockey because it seemed like the sport that fit me the best,” Shaftmaster said. “One day I heard about a basketball camp called All American that my friends were all attending and that’s when I really got into playing both sports.”
In middle school, Shafmaster was both a hockey goalie for recreational leagues and the Florida Jr. Panthers as well as playing for the Pioneer Middle School basketball team.
“Playing both sports at once was definitely not easy in the beginning,” Shafmaster said. “It took time getting used to playing two completely different sports around the same time.”
As time went on, Shafmaster continued to make improvements both on the ice and on the hardwood. While continuing to play travel hockey, Shafmaster tried out for the CCHS junior varsity basketball team and was selected to play for the Cowboys.
“Making the JV basketball team was crucial because it allowed me to compete at a higher level,” Shafmaster said.
In 11th grade Shafmaster was chosen to play for the Varsity Basketball Team, leading him to choose to devote his time to basketball and quit hockey. With basketball being the only sport on his mind, Shafmaster started to put in more effort to the team. He began to get increased playing time and it wasn’t long before he became a starter his senior year. Being a top big man for the team, Shafmaster has been putting up good numbers in both the points per game and rebounding categories.
“Shafmaster is one of our better shooters and has the ability to knock down the perimeter shot,” Varsity basketball coach Rich Belton said. “We try to involve him in pick n rolls because 9 times out of 10 he will be guarded by a big man who isn’t comfortable playing away from the basket. Shafmaster provides us a lot of versatility.”
As Shafmaster’s senior year went on he made a big decision. Once hockey for the school started back up again he chose to get back out on the ice. Still playing for the varsity basketball team, this became a matter of balancing two rigorous sports at the same time.
“I thought it would have been difficult but it wasn’t as bad as I thought,” Shafmaster said. “There is still the rust but I’m getting back into the swing of things.”
A basketball player who can play almost every position on the court and a hockey player who has the ability to shut down the opposing team, Shafmaster surely provides talent to both teams. On the basketball team he is a good shooter, defender, and rebounder, and on the hockey team he is an excellent goaltender. Both the hockey team and basketball team are more than happy to accept his hard work and great playing abilities.
“The Cowboys have wanted Shafmaster to play for the last three years, but never got him to play,” hockey coach Gary Bukstel said. “I am extremely pleased to have him now even if it is only for one year.”
So the question becomes, just how difficult is it for Shafmaster to play both sports during the same time frame? Practices run on the same days occasionally, games are sometimes scheduled on the same days, and overall it takes a lot of energy to compete at such high levels.
“It’s not that bad but there are still the times I have to choose what sport to go to,” Shafmaster said. “Sometimes I have basketball after school and then have hockey at night time. It becomes the most difficult when I have to choose which game to go to but I choose to go to the basketball games because that was my first commitment.”
Shafmaster has many attributes that allow him to play on both teams at the same time. Shafmaster is a tough athlete with a lot of positive energy. He is always trying to make the right plays and help out his teammates and that allows him to transition from one sport to the other so smoothly.
“His height, athleticism, knowledge for sports and most importantly his work ethic help him succeed in both,” Belton said. “He wants to be good at everything. When you multitask in anything, if you have no work ethic or sense of what you’re going for it becomes impossible to complete the task at hand.”
Shafmaster truly has had quite the sports experience over the years. Being a premiere hockey goalie and a very talented big man, sometimes choosing which sport to focus on becomes challenging. The truth is, no matter which sport he is competing in, he will surely make an impact.
“By the end of my senior year I will proudly say that I put in all of my effort to the sports that I truly love,” Shafmaster said.