Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin
It’s around 8:30 p.m. on a frigid Wednesday in the dead of winter, and Omar Shiddo is having his worst game of the season.
The fourth-year Western Mustangs guard, who has drawn comparisons to Damian Lillard for his clutch shooting, has just five points in the first half of a tight game against the Guelph Gryphons.
In the second half his game marginally improves, but there are a series of missteps — layups that don’t go down, jump shots that rim out and an occasional lack of motion without the ball.
Shiddo also gets hit with a technical foul after a physical bucket he felt should have resulted in an and-one, clapping back at two Guelph players who allegedly chirped at him during the play.
This is a far cry from the kinds of performance Shiddo is known for, and light years away from the 35-point outburst he had four days earlier in an 84-79 win over rival McMaster.
It doesn’t matter — not even remotely.
Western clamps down on defence in the second half and several teammates make big shots. Shiddo helps neutralize Guelph guard Malcolm Glanville, who had 11 first-half points and showed signs of catching fire.
Shiddo finishes with 12 points on 4-15 shooting, his lowest total of the year. Five other Mustang players players score in double-digits, including 27 points from sharp-shooting guard Eriq Jenkins.
Western pulls away and cruises to a 94-73 victory that’s as ugly as it is decisive.
“That’s a win, boys!” someone shouts emphatically as the team gathers for a post-game huddle in the cavernous, mostly-empty Alumni Hall in London, Ont. — Western’s home court.
“Guys on my team stepped up,” said Shiddo minutes later in an interview, his soft-spoken analysis tumbling out as quickly as he jukes opponents, like water over Niagara Falls.
“The second half was more of other guys doing their thing and me not having to do as much scoring, which I love to do. It’s all about team … we got a big win.”
Shiddo is unquestionably a leader — and on most nights, the most effective offensive weapon — on a Western team loaded with potential.
In his tenure, the Mustangs have been as good as they have been in a decade, with a legitimate chance to challenge for a berth in the U Sports Final 8 — Canada’s version of March Madness — in Ottawa.
“That’s our goal from the beginning of the year — trying to get to nationals,” said Shiddo, who grew up in Brampton, Ont., a hotbed that has produced several NBA players, including Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett.
“We think we’re a top-five team in the country,” said Shiddo. “We’ve just need to continue to play like it.”
Western is ranked outside the Top 10 nationally, but has the second-best record in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA), four points behind the Carleton Ravens.
They’re also first in the OUA West division, with a roster that skews relatively young: Seven of the 12 players are freshmen or sophomores.
Nikola Farkic, a 6-foot point guard from Waterloo, is team captain and Jenkins (Windsor, Ont.) is arguably its most reliable three-point threat. Veteran forward Julian Walker (Barrie, Ont.) anchors a front court with considerable promise, thanks in large part to lean, athletic second-year players Aaron Tennant (London, Ont.) and Ukasha Khan (Brampton, Ont.).
“A lot of stuff goes unnoticed on the stat sheet,” said Shiddo. “But we’ve got a full team and we’re 10 deep. Everybody plays their role. We’re not a team where it’s one guy.”
He’s right. This win over Guelph is proof enough of that. And yet in crunch time, Shiddo has a penchant for taking over games, Lillard-style, and making big shots.
It has become part of Western lore.
When Lillard puts a team on his back and wills it to victory in the fourth quarter, fans and media call it Dame Time. When Shiddo does this, it’s #Omellytime.
Shiddo showed hints of his #Omelly mentality early against Guelph. After Western fell behind 10-2 in the first quarter, his demeanor shifted from deferential to aggressive, pushing the ball up the floor and calmly making a mid-range jumper to cut the lead to six.
Minutes later, he drilled a three-pointer to make it 12-7, and attacked the basket for a layup that lingered on the rim but didn’t fall. His teammates took their cue and soon Western had its first lead of the game.
At the end of the first quarter the score was 28-28. At halftime Western led 47-46, and they never looked back.
“I’m not the rah rah type of — football type of leader,” said Shiddo. “I try to lead by example.
“Say what has to be said, and other than that just lead by example. It’s not how much you say, it’s about what you say.”
In U Sports, most teams are at the mercy of a Carleton dynasty that has won 14 of the last 17 national championships.
Western is a long shot to come anywhere near the title game this season, and Carleton is favoured to win it. When the teams meet for a regular-season tilt at Alumni Hall on Jan. 31, it will likely be for the last time.
Shiddo is nobody’s fool. He knows the odds are stacked against his team, even if he’s at his best and #Omellytime is in full effect.
His confidence is tempered with realism, but it’s still there.
“Against a team like that we’re not going to be up by one at half — we’ll probably be down by 20,” he said. “We have to play our perfect game.”
They will almost certainly not be perfect. They will almost certainly lose. And yet Omar Shiddo, the soft-spoken assassin, has a question for you.
“Why not shock the country,” he said, “and beat the No. 1 team?”
Moore To Life Than Basketball
Kobe Bryant yesterday said that WNBA greats like Elena Delle Donne, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore and more could break ankles and bang with the big boys in the NBA today…and those ignorant to this inspired notion making jokes on social media to no real likes need to watch them work this season.
But one player who won’t even be playing in the WNBA next season this Summer is Maya Moore.
The Minnesota Lynx franchise face will sit out her second straight season as she campaigns for the release of an incarcerated inmate she believes innocent. Taking herself out of Team USA consideration for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan also, Moore wants to make sure Missouri man Jonathan Irons behind bars gets his fair day in retrial.
Leaving the Basketball court for the legal one, the WNBA’s loss is much more important to this man’s gain as Maya works relentlessly for Irons’ freedom. The 39 year old is serving a 50 year prison sentence after being convicted of burglary and assault with a weapon. Moore first met Irons in 2017 at the Jefferson City Correctional Center where he is serving his sentence.
Irons has already served 20 years. He was 16 when he was tried and convicted, albeit without witness, fingerprint, footprints or DNA evidence. Although the homeowner involved in the robbery testified that he assaulted him. Still, Irons was tried as an adult, by an all-white jury and convicted of the crime.
From poverty to the purgatory of prison, Jonathan maintains his innocence and Maya is fighting for it for the second straight year. Although she insists she is not retired from the game. But right now this cause is just too important for her to ignore. Playing ball whilst she believes the justice system won’t. Advocating for social justice, change, reform and ministry Maya is showing even more to her skillet than being adept at beating the buzzer. She wants to beat injustice. And it’s a race against time.
The former Rookie of The Year and MVP has taken the Lynx to the WNBA Finals six times, but what she could lead now has much more life changing importance. With full support from club and country the five time All Star is shining a light on what we don’t see unlike highlight after highlight.
Those showing scorn and making another tired WNBA joke realize this is bigger than the game which in turn is much more than your inept, belittling comments. And to those doubting Irons innocence. Everyone deserves a fair trial, even another one when it’s not black and white beyond a reasonable doubt. You only have to watch the latest Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx film ‘Just Mercy’ to see that.
Maya Moore once emulated Michael Jordan’s legendary, arm spreading wings poster for an iconic Nike billboard for all the young hoopers looking up to her like a LeBron witness. But now she’s really extending an even bigger hand.