By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
Aaron Shoot knew subconsciously where his destiny lied.
When the radio broadcast of a Quincy High School boys basketball game is part of the soundtrack to your birth, you’re bound to be a Blue Devil, right?
“It’s in my blood,” Shoot said with a smile.
In the hours leading up to Jill Shoot giving birth to her second son in Blessing Hospital on March 14, 2000, her husband, Todd, listened to Quincy square off against Peoria Richwoods in the Class AA super-sectional.
The overlapping of the two events seemed like happenstance until this winter. When the Blue Devils were on the verge of finishing the regular season with a 21-4 record — the best mark since the 1999-2000 team went 21-4 as well — Todd Shoot picked up on the twist of fate and shared it on social media.
That’s when Aaron Shoot bought in to the idea he was destined to do this.
“I wanted to be a Blue Devil,” he said. “I dreamed about it.”
He played out those dreams long before he ever took the Blue Devil Gym floor.
“I remember the guys I used to pretend to be,” Shoot said. “Isaiah Johnson, Zach Forbes, those kind of guys. I used to go home and do commentary of myself making buzzer-beaters and pretending to be those guys.”
The next generation of Blue Devil dreamers will be emulating the 2018 Herald-Whig Player of the Year.
A third-team all-state selection by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and an honorable mention all-state pick by the Associated Press, Shoot helped the Blue Devils regain luster that had been lost.
The 23-5 record marked the most victories since 2007. A third straight Western Big Six Conference championships is the longest title streak since winning seven straight WB6 crowns from 1997-83. The Class 4A regional championship was the first postseason title since 2009, ending the longest drought in program history.
“It was everything you work for and everything you dream about since you were a little kid coming to fruition and coming together,” Shoot said. “The fact I got to do this alongside my best friends, that make it sweeter. I’ve said it all year and I say it all the time, they become part of your family.
“Being able to accomplish those things that not me but all of us wanted to do and looked forward to doing, that’s something special.”
It wouldn’t have happened were it not for Shoot’s leadership.
Two of Quincy’s four regular-season losses came during a four-game stretch in which he was sidelined with an ankle injury early in the year.
Following the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic, the Blue Devils went 10-1 during the remainder of the regular season with the only loss coming to Webster Groves, which won the Class 5 state championship in Missouri on Saturday. In that game, the Blue Devils trailed by 17 heading into the fourth quarter when Shoot scored 13 of his 23 points and pulled Quincy within one.
His fourth-quarter magic became expected.
The Blue Devils trailed Rock Island 33-24 going into the fourth quarter when Shoot engineered a rally. He scored six points, had two assists, a steal and a rebound as Quincy outscored the Rocks 16-7 over the final eight minutes and won 40-37.
Quincy led by five going to the fourth quarter in the regular-season finale against Galesburg when Shoot scored 16 of his 23 points, going 5 of 5 from the field and 6 of 6 from the line, to secure a 51-41 victory and the best regular-season record since the 1999-2000 team.
“He took advantage of every opportunity to make his senior season special,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said.
The coaching staff expected that long before this season began.
Douglas was asked when he knew Shoot would be special.
“First time I watched him play,” he replied. “You knew he had a little something different in him. That kid just lived, breathed basketball and wanted to be the man on the top stage.”
Basketball was his passion.
“For the longest time, basketball has been a huge part of me, of my family, of who I’ve become,” Shoot said. “Without the sport, without the game, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. That’s the most important thing.
“You can strip me of all the wins and the accolades and all the things like that. When it comes down to it, it’s taught me about character. It’s taught me about leadership. It’s taught me about life. I’ve learned lessons in all three of those things that can’t be replaced.”
Nor can the memories he helped create.
“When you see the Blue Devil come out, and you’re sitting up there (in the grade school section of Blue Devil Gym), it kind of becomes imbedded in your mind, especially if you play basketball, that this is what you want to do,” Shoot said. “You want to be out on that court in front of all those people playing in front of the city of Quincy.
“There’s nothing like it.”
AARON SHOOT: BY THE NUMBERS
3 — WB6 championship teams Shoot played on
9 — Consecutive WB6 games the Blue Devils won with Shoot in the lineup
14.7 — Shoot’s scoring average
21 — Most regular-season victories since the 1999-2000 team
37-3 — Quincy’s record at home the past three seasons with Shoot on the varsity
42.2 — Shoot’s 3-point shooting percentage
84.1 — Shoot’s free-throw shooting percentage
2,018 — Victories in program history. Quincy reached the 2,000-victory plateau in December, becoming the third program in Illinois to do so.