Iman ShumpertFile 2010/J. GEIL

During his freshman year at OPRF High School, Iman Shumpert was awakened one morning by a phone call from an irritated Al Allen, OPRF’s former head varsity basketball coach. Allen was ordering him to get his butt to practice. With both parents at work, Shumpert had no choice but to run from his home at Division and Harvey down to the school.

“He came into the gym out of breath, so I told him to go run some laps on the track for being late,” remembered Allen.

On Friday morning, Shumpert didn’t have to run anywhere. A limousine picked him up at 6:30 a.m. and drove him to the airport where he boarded a private jet, on his way to practice. The night before, the 2008 OPRF graduate had been the 17th pick in the first round of the NBA draft, chosen by the New York Knicks. He was off to work in the Big Apple.

Allen was initially reluctant to move Shumpert up to varsity his freshman year, but then he went to see him play in a Christmas tournament and was instantly convinced.

“The only problem was I had forgotten I had moved him up. I was watching practice when I realized something was wrong. He wasn’t there, and it was my fault. I had forgotten to tell him what time we were practicing.”

Shumpert heard that confession Thursday evening at La Majada Restaurant on Harrison where he gathered with well over 100 friends and family members to watch the draft on television. When his name was announced, the room exploded.

“Ecstatic,” replied his mother L’Tanya, when asked how she felt about her son going pro. “Tremendously ecstatic. It’s something he has strived for since he was 6 years old. Seeing it realized is truly amazing. He’s worked so hard to get to this point and we’re really proud of him.”

L’Tanya, who, along with her husband, Odis, has lived in Oak Park for 28 years and raised four boys, said she knew her son had a special talent after noticing other parents hanging around to watch him play after youth basketball games at the Y.

“Soon, people were knocking on the door and wanting him to play on their team in weekend tournaments. We had to travel with his birth certificate to prove he was the age he was,” she said.

Shumpert, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound guard, who averaged 17 points and five rebounds per game for Georgia Tech during his junior year last season, was initially projected to be chosen early in the second round. But that quickly changed after he reportedly performed well at team tryouts and practice combines.

The former Huskie, who started for OPRF three straight years, is now the first basketball player from Oak Park or River Forest drafted by the NBA since Bryan Bracey was selected in the second round (57th overall) in 2001. Bracey was chosen by the San Antonio Spurs, who released him in 2002.

Allen believes that Shumpert, who has the potential to sign for around $1.3 million as a rookie due to his high pick, has a lasting future at the pro level.

“He knows what needs to be done now. Being drafted wasn’t the ultimate goal. It was only a portion of it. There’s a sense of relief, but now it’s time to get on with it,” said his former coach. “Because there’s another draft next year and a team can just go ahead and draft someone over you.”

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...